CONSERVATIONISTS fear a young golden eagle has been killed after flying over an area of grouse moor.

The two-year-old bird, named Brodie, was being tracked by satellite as part of a breeding programme but vanished somewhere in the northern Monadhliath mountains, south east of Inverness last month.

The raptor is the eight bird being monitored by the RSPB to disappear in the area during the last five years, and inspectors suspect it was shot before its transmitter was destroyed.

It is an offence to kill golden eagles in Scotland and the RSPB have urged anyone with information on the bird's disappearance to contact them or Police Scotland.

The young female hatched two years ago and was fitted with a satellite transmitter shortly before it fledged from its nest.

Brodie was being monitored by conservationists as part of a national study to improve understanding of the movements and survival of young golden eagles.

Since November 2011, eight golden eagles, all less than three years old, that had been fitted with satellite transmitters have disappeared in the same area.

The birds were being monitored by RSPB Scotland, the Highland Foundation for Wildlife, Natural Research Ltd and Forestry Commission Scotland.

Dave Anderson, from the Scottish Raptor Study Group, initially tagged the eagle. He said: “I was privileged to satellite-tag this large female chick in July 2015 with a fellow member of the SRSG who monitors the site.

"This bird was the first successful fledging from any nest in this area since 2010. The data we were receiving from her was of great interest as we followed her journey northwards to Cairngorms National Park, with excellent location information.

“We were looking forward to seeing if she would head south again later in the year, however the tag stopped transmitting abruptly on the 18th May 2016, shortly after her first birthday. This is a very sad end to arguably one of the most important golden eagle chicks fledged that year in Scotland. There are no words to describe how disappointed I am at this bird’s disappearance”.

RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations, Ian Thomson, said the bird vanished in an area with an "appalling" previous record of confirmed incidents of raptor persecution, and that he doubted this was a coincidence.

He said: "These eight birds have all disappeared in an area where driven grouse moor management dominates the landscape, and where there have been many previous cases of illegal killing of protected raptors, including the poisoning of a golden eagle and a white-tailed eagle as recently as 2010.

Given the reliability of the transmitters, the chance of so many birds disappearing over such a short timescale without some kind of human interference is so small as to be negligible."

He added: "The pattern we see here is consistent with the birds having been killed and the transmitters destroyed.

“Once again, the commendable positive efforts of those landowners and estates who welcome golden eagles and host their nesting attempts, including elsewhere in the Monadhliaths, are being catastrophically undermined by those who have a complete disregard for the law, and who continue to threaten the conservation status of these magnificent birds.

"All of these eagles were young birds exploring Scotland before establishing their own territories and with their disappearance any potential future breeding by them to aid the population’s recovery is also lost."

Meanwhile, White-tailed sea eagles have had a successful breeding season on the Isle of Canna, according the island's owners National Trust for Scotland (NTS).

Two breeding pairs of the birds, which are the largest raptor species in the UK, are both rearing two chicks. NTS said Canna's golden eagles are rearing a single chick.