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Awaiting migration of the Greater spotted eagle

The Greater spotted eagle we fitted with a tracking device in January 2020 is currently still at Al Jahra. However, spring and migration are approaching. In advance of that, here is a recap of what happened last year during the spring migration. We fitted the GSE with a GPS/GSM transmitter (ID: 6488) on 15 January 2020 at Al Jahra Pools Reserves. It spent the rest of the winter at Al Jahra. Although tracking only covered part of the winter, it flew a total of 1993 km while at Al Jahra (Jan-March 2020). Its average flight speed in winter during daytime was 1.94 ± 3.8 km/hr (median = 0.61). The wintering area was small, and restricted to the Al Jahra Pools Reserve and adjacent land. Tracking data estimates that the eagle spent 99% of its time within only 3.91 km2


Map of winter ranging (Jan-Mar 2020) of an adult Greater spotted eagle at Al Jahra, Kuwait,

The eagle remained at Al Jahra until 30 March, when it started migration. This is an adult bird, so it might leave earlier in 2021, if it is going to be a breeder. It did not breed in 2020, but let’s hope that it will this year. In spring 2020 it migrated to western Kazakhstan, near the town of Turgay (49.63N, 63.49E), where it arrived on 6 April, only 8 days after leaving Al Jahra. That migration flew 2847 km across southern Iraq, Iran, Turkmenistan, and into Kazakhstan. Average speed on migration (daytime) was 26.69 ± 23.57 km/hr (max = 70.01, median = 30.52), and highest speeds were attained in the hours around mid-day (See graph below). The area near Turgay includes olive groves and sand dunes, and is near the Turgay River. The map below shows the migration route (green).


Movements of an adult Greater spotted eagle during 2020. The green line is its spring migration route.

The graph below shows the rate of movement during 2020. The blue is movement on the wintering grounds (very little), and green is the movement on spring migration (very rapid).


Movement rate of an adult Greater spotted eagle during 2020.

The graph below shows the rate of movement in relation to the time of day (hours after sunrise).  Blue is winter at Al Jahra; green is spring migration.  During spring migration it averaged around 60 km/hr around the middle of the day.



Dr. Mike McGrady

is an ecologist, specializing in raptors, including eagles. He has worked on a variety of projects over the past 30 years on raptors in Arabia, and has worked on raptors in Central Asia that migrate to Arabia.

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