The end of August saw the GPS-tagging of the second adult Black eagle for my study. The GPS unit which we are using weighs 40g, just 1.25% of the body weight of the lightest eagle we have tagged so far. It has the ability to track the eagle up to every 3 seconds – this will give us very valuable high resolution data on the movements and behavior of the eagles.
My research is comparative and the purpose of the GPS tracking is to pick up on behavioral differences between eagles in the Sandveld, which has seen a massive land transformation for agriculture, and eagles in the Cederberg, which remains relatively pristine. The first eagle was tagged in the Cederberg and despite the tag falling off prematurely after 5weeks, it still gave us our first insight into the life of a Cederberg Black eagle. This recently tagged eagle is breeding in the Sandveld, so I am finally seeing my first comparisons.
It will still take much more time and data to really understand the differences in lifestyles and possible effects which agriculture has had on this top predator. However we have already had some interesting results – the Sandveld eagle has made flights of more than 13km away from its nest area. Which is approximately double the distance which we saw the Cederberg eagle travelling. In one flight it managed to cover just over 40km as a round trip in 55minutes.
This has been an incredible advance in the research into this species but we still have a long way to go – to keep up to speed with more information from the Black Eagle Project please visit the website www.blackeagleproject.blogspot.com or follow the link to the Facebook group.
By: Megan Murgatroyd