Czech Imperial eagles in 2018

23. 9. 2018

This year’s breeding season of Imperial eagles looked promising at its beginning. In total, birds occupied eight territories, all in southern Moravia. Sadly, only two pairs were successful and raised four chicks (two chicks each). In July, two young eagles got backpacks equipped with hi-tech GPS-GSM loggers.

The beginning of this season was promising for Imperial eagles in the Czech Republic. Birds of prey occupied eight territories and six couples subsequently built a nest. However, only three females were able to lay eggs, and only two pairs finished breeding successfully. "Four youngsters are really small number when compared to last year’s ten eaglets. However, this year’s unsuccessful season is not a disaster - it is necessary to realize that the Czech population of Imperial eagles is at the very edge of their breeding area. Therefore, fluctuations in population are not surprising and a relatively large number of occupied territories gives hope for a further increase of population in the future," explains David Horal from the Czech Society for Ornithology.

The two successful pairs are close neighbours. Their nests are situated less than 1.5 kilometres from each other. Two youngsters from one nest were tagged in July with loggers. „The loggers weight only about 25 grams, but can do a lot of things. They enable us to track movement of eagles in the space and also their activity – signal that they are OK. Backpacks are equipped with tiny solar panels which ensure their operating for several years,” describes David Horal. The event, in which was also used an aerial platform, could happen thanks to international conservation project PannonEagle Life.

Relatively frequent partner changes are evidence for both unjustified assumption of "permanent, life-long" pairs of birds of prey and other bird species, and also that eagles are threatened by various anthropogenic factors such as power lines or direct pursuits. In 2017, ornithologists in the Czech Republic proved for the first time poisoning of the Imperial eagle. And even in two cases. Poisoning probably led to cessation of breeding territory, because female lost partner.

This year, the eagles had a good luck. We have not recorded any poisoned individuals, but humans continue in killing animals, including endangered birds of prey. “By the beginning of August, we dealt with 64 cases where the poison was either directly proven in the laboratory or we could have assumed it according to the position of the animals and dead insects nearby," says Klára Hlubocká, a dog handler from the Czech society for ornithology, who searches for poisoned baits and dead animals.

This year, Klára Hlubocká and her two specially trained dogs have searched 25 locations, mostly on the basis of public appeals, the Czech Environmental Inspectorate or the Czech Police. "In addition, we also carry out preventive searches, both in territories of Imperial eagles and in places of previous cases of poisoning. None of the poisoners has ever been punished in Czech Republic, but the policemen are working on several cases, and we believe that at least some of them will soon be brought to an end," concludes Hlubocká.