ONE of Scotland’s most famous ospreys may have been killed by a rival, according to wildlife experts.
The male, known as Odin, has fledged 17 chicks with partner EJ since 2009 at the RSPB Scotland’s Loch Garten reserve in the Cairngorms.
Bird-watchers were devastated when Odin vanished on Thursday 18 May, causing all three of the chicks on the nest to starve to death.
It is thought the raptor was frightened away after up to four younger rivals appeared, trying to take over the territory.
Staff at the reserve hoped that Odin would return to resume his partnership with 20-year-old EJ - having previously disappeared for five days in 2015.
But ten days after the male was last seen, they now believe the ageing osprey may have been killed.
Chris Tilbury, visitor experience manager at Loch Garten, said: “There’s been no sign of Odin and the longer he is gone the less likely he will return.
“There is every chance he’s in his late teens now and these younger males will be fitter and in much better condition.
“He might have got injured in an aerial battle with one of them and it is possible he has died from his injuries.
“If he was injured and couldn’t fish he would struggle to stay alive.”
Loch Garten has been known as the home of the UK’s breeding ospreys since the 1950s. The location was where the birds first returned after becoming extinct as a breeding species in the early twentieth century.
Staff at the visitor centre, along with osprey fans watching around the globe the via a nest-cam, were left “heartbroken” as tragedy unfolded.
After Odin disappeared, female EJ was left alone to protect their three chicks from predators. However, without a regular supply of fish from the male, the newly hatched birds starved.
The weakened female only left the nest to catch herself a fish once all the chicks were dead. Now there are concerns for EJ after she was repeatedly attacked by another female bidding to oust her from the site.
Mr Tilbury said: “EJ is protecting the nest from these intruding males but there have also been one or two females.
“She has been dive-bombed and it has been quite spectacular at times. It’s a tough time for her.”
RSPB Scotland has been protecting ospreys at Loch Garten since 1958.