A NEW type of satellite tag has been designed to more closely monitor raptor movements – as help understand the fate of tagged birds which die.

Over the next 18 months, some young Golden Eagles in and around the Cairngorms National Park will be fitted with the new ‘Raptor Tracker’ tag, as part of a trial which will provide key information on their behaviour, such as whether a bird is feeding or resting, and offer an 'instant fix' on any birds which die.

The tags in current use are limited in the information they provide on the exact location of a bird which dies – but the new tag uses the ‘geostationary Iridium’ satellite network to ensure that its signal is always available. It has been developed with multiple sensors, which will send a ‘distress’ signal, with an exact location, if unusual behaviour is detected.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “This is great news for improving our understanding of eagle behaviours, and in the fight against wildlife crime. The tags should make a real difference in deterring would-be criminals, as well as playing a key role in establishing exactly what happened, should any of these magnificent birds of prey disappear or die in unusual circumstances.”

Cairngorms National Park Authority CEO, Grant Moir, said: “Raptor conservation and tackling wildlife crime is one of the aims of the recently launched Cairngorms Nature Action Plan 2019-2023. This is an exciting breakthrough in the technology around raptor conservation, understanding the birds and combatting wildlife crime.”

Scottish Natural Heritage's head of wildlife management, Robbie Kernahan, added: “This exciting new technology will give us new information on the movements of these iconic birds. This should also be a significant deterrent to anyone thinking of persecuting raptors, as we will have detailed information on birds’ movements in the minutes leading up to their death.”

Charlie Everitt of the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit commented: “This new tag is a significant step forward in using technology to research further the intriguing ranging behaviour of Golden eagles. However, the implications for preventing wildlife crime and as an aid to enforcement are also very apparent. I look forward to the trial and working closely with colleagues in CNPA and SNH.“

If the trial proves successful, the organisations involved will look at putting them on more Golden Eagles – and also the potential miniaturisation of the technology to allow similar tagging of Hen Harriers and other species.