Cutting edge technology to provide new insight into lives of Scotland’s Golden Eagles
23rd March 2019
An innovative new type of satellite tag has been designed to provide a boost to understanding raptor movements and behaviour, as well as help understand the fate of birds which die in the Cairngorms National Park and more widely across Scotland.
Over the next 18 months some young Golden Eagles in and around the Cairngorms National Park will be fitted with a novel ‘Raptor Tracker’ tag, as part of a trial which will provide key information on movements and behaviour, such as whether a bird is feeding or resting. Most importantly, it will provide an instant fix on any birds which die.
Tags in current use are limited in what information they can provide on the exact location of any bird which dies. This new tag uses the ‘geostationary Iridium’ satellite network and ensures that signal information is always available. Crucially, it has been developed with multiple sensors; these immediately send a ‘distress’ signal, with an exact location, back to base if unusual behaviour is detected. This early warning system has the added benefit of helping to rapidly identify and recover birds which have died.
Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “This is great news for improving our understanding of eagle behaviours, and in the fight against wildlife crime. The tags should make a real difference in deterring would-be criminals, as well as playing a key role in establishing exactly what happened, should any of these magnificent birds of prey disappear or die in unusual circumstances.”
Grant Moir, CEO of the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) said: “Raptor conservation and tackling wildlife crime is one of the aims of the recently launched Cairngorms Nature Action Plan 2019-2023. This is an exciting breakthrough in the technology around raptor conservation, understanding the birds and combatting wildlife crime.”
Robbie Kernahan, Head of Wildlife Management, of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) added: “This exciting new technology will give us new information on the movements of these iconic birds. This should also be a significant deterrent to anyone thinking of persecuting raptors, as we will have detailed information on birds’ movements in the minutes leading up to their death.”
Charlie Everitt, UK National Wildlife Crime Unit commented: “This new tag is a significant step forward in using technology to research further the intriguing ranging behaviour of Golden eagles. However, the implications for preventing wildlife crime and as an aid to enforcement are also very apparent. I look forward to the trial and working closely with colleagues in CNPA and SNH.“
Phil Atkinson, Head of International Research, BTO said: “BTO has been developing new tagging technologies for several years, working to increase the quality and type of information collected. These new ‘Raptor Tracker’ tags have the potential to reveal new aspects of Golden Eagle behaviour, providing fascinating insights into their lives. We are looking forward to the trial and what it reveals.”
The CNPA and SNH have been working on this for over two years, and for the last six months the British Trust for Ornithology has been involved in developing the new tag. The tags will be placed on birds over the next 18 months to trial them. Changes can be made to the tags remotely to ensure that they are working optimally.
If the trial proves successful, the organisations will look at putting these on more Golden Eagles and also the potential miniaturisation of the technology to allow similar tagging of Hen Harriers and other species.