Megan Murgatroyd, researcher for the Black Eagle Project, a project supported by Cape Leopard Trust, has spent the past three weeks undertaking intensive efforts to catch and GPS tag adult Verreaux’s eagles. Working with Victor Garcia from the Spanish Ministry of the Environment, Megan finally caught an adult Verreaux’s eagle in the Cederberg on Friday 6th April – a first for the project, and the first ever Verreaux’s eagle tagged in the wild. The researchers expect that the captured eagle was a male, although this is not as yet validated. The bird was in very good condition, weighing in at 3.4kg with a wingspan of 2.2 metres.
The Black Eagle Project was initiated in 2011 by Megan Murgatroyd, a postgraduate student from the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town, in collaboration with the Cape Leopard Trust. The research undertaken by this project will focus on the effects of land use on the diet and hunting habits of the Black eagle (Aquila verreauxii), with field studies concentrated in the Cederberg Mountains and the Sandveld further west. The outcomes of the project will enable an assessment of the effects which land use has had on the Black eagle and its primary prey, the rock hyrax (Procavia capensis).
In collaboration with a team of scientists from theUniversityofAmsterdam, the Black Eagle Project researchers are using a 40g GPS tag for their data gathering. The tag is mounted on the bird with a Teflon harness, and will record GPS points every 3 seconds, to obtain data which will allow for a better understanding of the habitat use and hunting techniques of these birds in contrasting environments. The capture and tagging went smoothly and the eagle was released after 45 minutes. Upon release, the eagle circled the valley then rejoined its mate.
The Black Eagle Project wishes to thank the staff from Eagle Encounters who assisted with field work, Donkies Kraal for accommodating the team while we were in the Sandveld, the Cape Leopard Trust as a main sponsor and support and Driehoek Tourist Farm for their ongoing support and encouragement. An extended thank you must also be extended to Victor Garcia for overseeing and assisting with the first capture.