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Monday, January 30, 2017

Vultures and Eagles

We have been working on vultures in Oman for a few years now, tracking them (as documented in this blog), but also working with the Environment Society of Oman and other volunteers to survey breeding vultures on Masirah, and wintering vultures at the rubbish dumps, mostly in northern Oman.  In January we aimed to fit two more satellite transmitters to vultures in Oman, but we ended up catching two Steppe eagles (Aquila nipalensis) and fitting them with transmitters.  This was somewhat unexpected because relatively few (in relation to the Egyptian vultures) steppe eagles use the Al Multaqaa landfill where we were working.
A 3rd calendar year steppe eagle with a friend from the Environment Society of Oman.
Steppe eagles are migratory.  They breed across the steppes of central Asia and winter in India, Arabia and Africa.  Last year their conservation status was downgraded to globally endangered because of recent rapid declines across the range. Our tracking of these eagles will provide information on their movements that could help in their conservation, and is entirely consistent with our work on Egyptian vultures in Oman (also an endangered species, some of which migrate to Oman).

Like the Egyptian vulture, steppe eagles come to Oman in large numbers in the winter (Nov-Feb, or so).  It is not unusual to have more than 1000 eagles at the rubbish dump at Raysut, and many photographers in Oman have taken great pictures of these eagles.  In Oman they face the same potential risks as the vultures, including electrocution, but also like the vultures we have little data on those risks.  Unlike the young Egyptian vultures, the eagles should migrate this year, so, if these birds survive, we can look forward to an exciting journey back north.
A second calendar year eagle fitted with a transmitter being released
In the coming days I will start posting maps and information about the steppe eagles we are tracking, along with more information on the vulture that we have tracked for over a year, and I will update those maps every so often.  So, come back to visit to see what is going on.

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