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Unsettled in Kuwait

Throughout the year Greater Spotted Eagles are a “wetland” species.  On the breeding grounds they nest in forests that are close to rivers and streams and wetlands.  They hunt wetland species.  Where they breed in agricultural areas, those have generally been transformed from wetter habitats to farmland.  On migration they also favour wetland habitats, and sometimes stopover in wetlands and near lakes and rivers to hunt and rest.  On the wintering grounds they also settle in wetland areas, like Al Jahra Reserve in Kuwait, where our study is focussed.

Since December 2018 we have been fitting Greater Spotted Eagles that winter at Al Jahra with GPS-GSM satellite tracking devices, and following them throughout the year.  Early tracking suggested to us that birds that arrive at Al Jahra from migration, settle and spend the winter there.  That suggestion held (mostly) true for the first two years.  Birds that arrived in autumn, settled, then left on migration in spring.  As we have fitted more Greater Spotted Eagles with tracking devices and studied them for more years, we are now learning that not all birds that arrive at Al Jahra, stay for the whole of the winter.

Figure 1. Movements of a Greater spotted eagle during Dec 2022 – March 2023. Numbered circles are areas where the eagle as concentrated its time.

Figure 1 is a map of the movements of a Greater Spotted Eagle (8752) caught in December 2022 at Al Jahra (1).  Since capture it has also spent considerable time at two other locations (2 and 3), and a few less visited locations.  Of course, it has also transited between those sites.

Figure 2 zooms in on Al Jahra, and one can see that even there the eagle frequents some places more than others, coastal areas where it feeds, and the trees where it roosts.  Figure 3 zooms into area 2, which is the area of the Al Abdaliah Oasis, a nature reserve managed by the Kuwait Oil Company.  Figure 4 zooms in to an area just outside Sabah Al Ahmed Township, where lakes and ponds occur.  What do these places have in common?  Well, the answer is WETLAND!.

Figure 2. Locations of a Greater Spotted Eagle around Al Jahra, Kuwait

Figure 3. Locations of a Greater Spotted Eagle at the Al Abdaliah Oasis, Kuwait during winter 2022-23.
Figure 4. Locations of a Greater Spotted Eagle at Sabah Al Ahmed Township, southern Kuwait during winter 2022 – 23.

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