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Sad fate for Steppe Eagle 8751

Figure 1. Steppe eagle 8751 just before release, 29 March 2022, Al Jahra, Kuwait.

Sadly, some of the birds we are tracking do not survive.  A Steppe eagle (8751, Figure 1) tagged by us in late winter 2021-22 perished in Yemen.  The positive side of this is that we were able to harness the help of Yemeni co-operators to determine the actual fate of the bird, and information on the causes of death for the bird species we are tracking help us understand the conservation threats they face.

Establishing a working partnership with colleagues in Yemen is important because many of the migratory eagles that pass through Kuwait spend their winters in Yemen. Unfortunately, Yemen seems to be a country where many migratory raptors either die or are taken into captivity. Indeed, currently another Steppe eagle and a Long-legged buzzard we have been tracking were last heard in Yemen.  We are trying to determine the fate of those birds.

The Steppe eagle was caught by us at the Al Jahra reserve on 29 March 2022.  After release, 8751 flew south into Saudi Arabia, and wandered.  On 22 April 2021 the eagle started to migrate and made a concerted push north.  On 7 May the eagle arrived on the summering grounds.  However, it seemed not to be a breeding bird/territory holder.  This was not surprising because the eagle was only three years old, and thus a subadult.  On the summering grounds the eagle spent much of its time in two locales in southern Russia (Figure 2).  It is likely that these areas held good populations of small rodents upon which the eagle would have fed.  On 15 September 2021, the eagle started migration south, and proceeded at a steady pace to Yemen.

Figure 2. Movements of Steppe eagle (8751) during 29 March – 13 November 2022. Capture location=Al Jahra, Kuwait; mortality location=Khawlan, Yemen.

On 13 November 2022 data from the tracking device stopped suddenly.  The last location was at 15.1649°N, 44.57455°E a location next to a major road near Khawlan. On 30 November 2022 KEL reached out through Richard Porter to Ahmed Soliman via email.  Ahmed then arranged for colleagues to visit the area and search for the bird and transmitter.  They found the carcass of the ringed eagle, with the tracking device (Figure 3), and KEL confirmed the bird’s identity.  Evidence at the scene suggested the eagle may have been hit by a car.  The transmitter was not functioning.  At the time of its death it was not clear whether the eagle had stopped migrating.  In total since capture (230 days) the eagle travelled at least 12,820 km.  Figure 5 illustrates the pattern of movement during different annual phases.

Figure 3.  The carcass of a Steppe eagle (8751) that was captured in Kuwait and perished in Yemen.

Figure 4. Daily travel (km) of a Steppe eagle (8751) during 29 March – 13 November 2022.

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