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Satellite tracking of the Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca in Hungary between 2003-2009 András Kovács , Bernd-U. Meyburg, Christiane Meyburg, Iván Demeter, Márton Horváth, János Bagyura, Imre Fatér

7th ICCEIE, 3 October 2013, Bratislava

History: 1st tagged EIE specimen, Vértes Mountains 1992 Year of study

Age of tagged bird

Place of tagging

Parameters of the PTT*


1 pull.

Vértes Mountains

90 g. Lithium battery



Slovenia Croatia * PTT – Platform Transmitter Terminal


Background • Conservation of the Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca in the Carpathian Basin (LIFE02NAT/H/8627, 2002 - 2005) • The 1st bigger (1<) sample size Hungarian satellite tracking project in birds. • New technology for Hungary – new questions:  Is it worth risking the life of eagles?  What are the effects of tagging on them?  How can the lifetime of the PTTs be optimized?  How should the PTT be fixed?  How can we locate lost birds and recover tags?

Material and methods 2003-2009 • 9 tagged specimens (6 nestlings and 3 juveniles) • Origin of birds: East Hungary (8): Heves Plain (2+1 rehab. Slovak bird), Borsodi Plain (1), Hernád Valley (1), Bodogköz (1), Mátra Mountains (2). West Hungary (1): Moson Plain (1). • 7 „Argos” (+ 4 VHF) and 2 GPS PTTs (prototypes). ATW: 78g • 2 successful tag recovery with a ‘rotating antenna’ by L. Peske • Data processing: manual processing from .txt files to GIS

• Google Earth: only from 2005 on.

Results 2003-2009 post-fledging independence • Over 3,000 fix points • Post-fledging independence: 

Two groups: A) early departure from natal territory (3-4 weeks after fledging),

B) longer dependence period (staying up to 2 months postfledging in the natal territory)

Results 2003-2009 dispersion, wintering and migration • Dispersion and wintering pattern: 

Geographical separation between West and East Hungary. Low level of mixing.

Some tagged birds returned their preferred wintering areas year after year.

Only 2 specimens dispersed over 700km.

Hungarian EIEs occured in at least 8 countries for th first time.

• Migration behaviour: 

Only 1 specimen out of 9 showed true migration and

Results 2003-2009 – dispersal areas • Use of dispersal areas: 

Delineation of 22 Temporary Settlement Areas. 31 October 2007: 72-79 EIEs within a 132 km2 area (58 specimens < 4cy).

Significance of small game releasing farms in the survival of juvenile eagles – two major farms attracted eagles from 80 km.

EIEs often roosted and fed on carcass together with Whitetailed Eagles.

Results 2003-2009 cohesion within population & mortality • Cohesion within the population and territory occupation: 

Juveniles and immatures regularly returned to their natal territory and visited other territories in the region. They supposedly check the occupancy and, ultimately, the habitat quaility.

Satellite tracking data revealed new breeding pairs.

• Mortality: 

The technology was of limited use regarding the causes of mortality due to unknown -fate birds and the small sample size.

The period between tagging and signal cease ranged between 35 and 1443 days.

1 specimen reached its 5th calendar year but did not take a territory.

Lesson learnt â&#x20AC;˘ Untested self-release mechanism (SRM - rubber ring) caused hanging transmitters under the belly of tagged eagles. Lesson: harness should be sewed without SRM or the SRM should be tested before tagging.

Photo: I. FatĂŠr

Conclusions â&#x20AC;˘ Satellite tracking of Eastern Imperial Eagles in Hungary proved to be an extremely useful tool in the in terms of the understanding of the dispersion behaviour and the localization of temporary settlement areas as well as in raising public awareness. â&#x20AC;˘ Costs (money invested & the life of tagged birds) can be effective only if the gathered information is translated for species and habitat management plans and turned into actions.

Thank you for your attention! Acknowledgement: Péter Bedő, István Béres, Henke Blake, Péter Borbáth, Gábor Firmánszky, Ádám Gutermuth, István Hám és Hajnalka Hám, Dayton James, Mihok Jozef, András Kleszó, Miklós Lóránt, Peske Lubomir, McGrady Mike, Stoynic Nikola , Endre Sós, Tamás Szitta, Imre Tóth, László Tóth, Miklós Váczi, William S. Seegar, Central Office MME/BirdLife Hungary.



Photo: G. Papp

Satellite tracking of the Eastern Imperial Eagle in Hungary between 2003-2009  

VII. International Conference on the Conservation of the Eastern Imperial Eagle