Greater Spotted Eagle is a vulnerable bird species that winters in the region, including the UAE Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: A Greater Spotted Eagle being tracked by the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi has traversed over 70,000 kilometres during the last four years.

In doing so, the bird has provided environmentalists with valuable data about the globally threatened species’ migration routes and habitats.

“Greater Spotted Eagles are listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and there are known to be less than 4,000 breeding pairs globally. This is why the satellite tracking of these birds is the best way to see where these birds go and where they stop or breed, which in turn, allows us to conserve [habitats and remove threats],” Dr Salim Javed, acting director for terrestrial biodiversity at the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD), told Gulf News.

The Greater Spotted Eagle is a large bird of prey with brown plumage. Adult birds typically range from 59 to 71 centimetres in length, with a wingspan between 157 and 179 centimetres.

The eagle being tracked by the EAD was first fitted with a GSM transmitter in December 2015 when it was found at the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, and has since completed six winter and spring migrations. This year, it began its migration from the east coast on April 2.

The eagle has flown across 70,000 kilometres since being tagged Image Credit: Supplied

“The Greater Spotted Eagle typically flies inland, and we know that it prefers to spend winter in the region because it provides milder weather than in areas where it breeds. In the UAE, the birds prefer safe, protected areas where they can rest and hunt for smaller birds, such as Al Wathba or Ras Al Khor in Dubai,” Dr Javed explained.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists the Greater Spotted Eagle as vulnerable to extinction.

A second eagle of the same species was also tagged earlier this year in February, and it has also started its spring migration.

“These two eagles are among 90 individual birds from 12 different species currently being tracked by the EAD. We began tagging birds in 2005, starting with flamingoes, and our focus is threatened and locally-important species,” Dr Javed said.

The data collected from the tagged birds is studied by the EAD, and the information is shared internationally whenever required in order to promote conservation actions.

“In addition, we try to create general awareness among residents so that they too can work to preserve habitats and protect threatened wildlife,” Dr Javed said.