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Raptor Tracking Project gives valuable insight

30th January 2012

15 raptors in the Cairngorms National Park have been satellite tagged and their movements tracked as part of the Raptor Tracking Project. The birds which include peregrine, hen harrier, hobby, merlin and eagle were tagged between 2010 and 2011.

The latest, in June 2011, were three golden eagles, two peregrines and a hen harrier. They’ve now fledged from their nest sites and their movements can be followed at

The satellite tagging has provided valuable information on the movements of these birds both in the National Park and further afield. It has been useful to see how they use the Park and revealed some surprises.

CNPA Ecology Adviser, Karen Couper, said: “We expected some of the peregrines to go to the coast or further south in the winter where it’s warmer but the satellite tracking system showed they actually stayed in the National Park. The project also highlighted some of the amazing migrations that these raptors take with the hobby we tagged in June 2010 migrating to Ghana, West Africa.”

The survey has so far also highlighted the high mortality rate of these birds with two golden eagles, two hen harriers and one peregrine disappearing in 2010, and single peregrine, hen harrier and hobby in 2011. This high mortality rate is very worrying.

“The Cairngorms National Park is a great place for raptors but the populations of these raptors are low. The exact cause of the deaths of our tagged birds is not known – some will be natural causes but it looks very likely that some have been killed illegally both in and outside the National Park which is simply unacceptable.”

Raptor Track is a partnership project involving Roy Dennis of the Highland Foundation for Wildlife, the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA), Scottish Natural Heritage and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds as well as local land mangers across the National Park.  Additional funding has come from the Cairngorms Local Biodiversity Action Plan and the Partnership Against Wildlife Crime.

Roy Dennis said: “The three newly-tagged golden eagles have come through their first six months. One has remained at home with his parents in Strathspey, another has wandered within the National Park and the third from Angus has flown west to the Kinlochleven area. The female eagle Cullen, tagged on Strathspey Estates in 2010, is well through her second year and has recently moved from Deeside to Glenfeshie. The information on the lives of individual birds is providing us with exciting new information on raptors in the National Park as well as giving people interested in birds a whole new dimension of enjoyment and knowledge.”