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Teaming up to Track Short-toed Eagles!
Long-time Signals of Spring partner, HawkWatch International, is working in collaboration with graduate student Sameh Darawshi of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University in Israel to track and study the Short-toed Eagle.
The Short-toed Eagle is new to Signals of Spring and it is with great excitement that we offer this interesting species to our students. This medium-sized bird of prey is the most common eagle in the Middle East and prevalent throughout parts of southern Europe, Russia, Africa, and Asia. Short-toed Eagles are migratory, spending winters in central Africa and summers in Russia, the Middle East, and Asia.
Short-toed Eagles feed mostly on snakes, small rodents, birds, mollusks, and insects. They typically live by themselves or in small groups. However, in recent years, large groups of eagles have been seen hunting together, a behavior known as aggregation. This interesting and unusual behavior fascinates Mr. Darawshi, who has dedicated his graduate research thesis to studying Short-toed Eagles.
"Recently, we observed unusual aggregation events, sometimes...of more than a hundred eagles at a time, mainly preying on rodents. These...events seem to be strongly related to agricultural activities,...especially...plowing," explains Mr. Darawshi. Short-toed Eagles hunt prey that are disturbed as a plow lifts and turns the soil. The eagles are thought to be a natural form of pest control for farmers, a characteristic that may be helpful to ornithologists and conservationists interested in protecting the species and its habitat.
Using satellite transmitters, provided by HawkWatch International, Mr. Darawshi will be able to monitor the behavior of eagles in relation to plowing activity. He will also be able to study the migration patterns of the Short-toed Eagle, a species on which few other scientists have focused. Mr. Darawshi can identify where the eagles come from and where they go after they aggregate to figure out how plowing affects their migration routes. Signals of Spring students can join Mr. Darawshi by observing the movement of four Short-toed Eagles in relation to vegetation, weather, and geography maps.
In addition to learning more about the ecology of the Short-toed Eagle, Mr. Darawshi believes that promoting conservation of the species, a symbolic bird in the Middle East, offers an opportunity for collaboration between Middle Eastern countries, specifically Israel and Palestine. The Short-toed Eagle, like all species, does not recognize man-made boundaries and, as a result, requires international teamwork in conservation.
Short-toed Eagles have begun their northward migration from their wintering grounds in Africa. Click on 'maps and data' to keep an eye on their movement.