The year 2020 appears to have been a good one for white-tailed eagles. A total of 51 eaglets were born to eagle pairs in 60 nests, a number only exceeded by last year’s figure of 56 since monitoring of the birds began in 1959. Morgunblaðið reported first.
The white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) is Iceland’s largest bird of prey and the only eagle species that inhabits Iceland. Their average wingspan ranges from 1.78-2.45 metres, possibly the largest wingspan of any living eagle. There are around 85 white-tailed eagle pairs in Iceland, most of them around Breiðarfjörður, West Iceland. Their numbers have bounced back since reaching a low of around 20 pairs in the 1960s.
GPS Trackers Sheds Light on Eagle Behaviour
A recent report from the Icelandic Institute of Natural History outlines how researchers in Iceland put GPS loggers on white-tailed eaglets for the first time last year. Powered by solar batteries, the devices have been tracking the movements of eight young eagles since the summer of 2019. The devices, which are expected to function for at least 4-6 years, send researchers information on the eagles’ location several times per day and sometimes as often as every three minutes, allowing them to map their movements.
As of the spring of 2020, all but one of the eagles were still alive and well. The GPS loggers showed wide variation when it came to the eaglets fleeing the nest. Two of the eaglets left their parents’ nest in late October or early November, while some stayed until February. Once they had left the nest, the eagles stuck to fairly small areas, sometimes in small groups, even inside territories inhabited by adult eagles. The eagles behaved differently from each other as well. “One of them played the unofficial role of health inspector and regularly visited locations where dead livestock had been stored,” the report reads.