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Three years tracking a Greater Spotted Eagle

We know Greater Spotted Eagle 6488 quite well.  She is our old friend. We first caught her at Al Jahra on 15 January 2020.  Figure 1 shows all her movements.  Since then we have tracked her as she moved between summering and wintering areas.  That migration has followed more or less the same path every year, one that passes SE of the Caspian Sea.  Her journeys have her flying over Kuwait, Iraq, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia. Every winter she has returned to Al Jahra, and spent the whole season there being seen and photographed often by the Kuwait Environmental Lens team and others.

Figure 1. Greater Spotted Eagle 6488 movements during Jan 2020 – April 2023.

In her first summer after capture (2020), 6488 wandered widely over Kazakhstan and Russia, indicating that she was not a breeding bird and did not have a territory.  Click here to read about that summer. We suspected this would be the case because when she was caught she was an immature bird, and mostly it is adults that breed.  In 2021 she settled into an area of south Russia, but her movements suggested that she did not move.  Click here to read that story.  In summer 2022 she returned to that same location and movement data indicated that she did indeed breed, and may have successfully reared chicks (Click here).  Now in 2023 she has again returned to that same nesting location and we hope she will settle in and breed successfully.  Figure 2 shows her movements between 1 March and 28 April 2023.  It’s still too early to guess at what she is doing exactly, but we are hopeful.  This predictable returning to breed at the same location is called ‘breeding site fidelity’, and is a common feature of eagle ecology.

Figure 2. Movements of a Greater Spotted Eagle during 1 March – 19 April 2023. Red circle shows that this bird moved from Al Jahra to wetland areas in Iraq and returned during that period.

Many eagles also show ‘winter site fidelity’ in that they return year after year to the same location in winter.  Indeed, this is what 6488 has done ever since we caught her.  Although she has returned every year to Al Jahra, in some years she makes short journeys to other wetlands in Iraq and Iran.  One can see these occasional movements in both figures (Red circle in Figure 2), with wintertime locations not being restricted only to Al Jahra, but sometimes being in Iran and Iraq.

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