England's wildlife population is missing something special so far this year: its lone resident golden eagle, a male that has not yet appeared this spring.
The eagle's disappearance has the charity organization the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) worried the animal may be dead.
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The bird's home turf had been the Lake District's Riggindale Valley, at Haweswater. The high-flying predator had occupied the territory since 2001, according to the RSPB, and he had been alone since 2004, when his mate died.
According to the organization, the eagle was last seen in November 2015. Experts there say it's not unusual for the bird to go unseen in the winter, but his absence from springtime skies is ominous. Normally, they say, this would be the time of year he would be seen building a nest and making displays in his territory to try to attract a mate.
"When the eagle didn't appear last month we thought there was a chance he might be hunting in a nearby valley, but over the past few weeks we've been gradually losing hope," said Lee Schofield, RSPB site manager for the bird's territory, in a statement.
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The RSPB doesn't think it's likely golden eagles will settle again in the area anytime soon. There's not enough food or suitable land. But the organization plans to restore the habitat, in hopes of encouraging more small wildlife into the area, which would provide a stable food source for eagles.
Schofield said the missing bird is about 20 years old - getting up there for an eagle - and that it's possible he died of natural causes.
"His disappearance marks the end of an era," Schofield said, "as he has been an iconic part of the Haweswater landscape for the past 15 years. During this time, thousands of visitors have traveled from across the country hoping to catch a glimpse of him at the Riggindale Eagle Viewpoint. With him gone, the Lake District has just got a bit less wild."
H/T BBC News