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Europe’s rarest eagles are also suffering because of the war in Ukraine!

It is feared that bald eagles are just one example of many how the war in Ukraine is harming populations of endangered species. Photo: Ülo Väli, EMÜ

Newly completed research shows that critically endangered Greater Spotted Eagles have changed their migratory behavior due to the war in Ukraine, and this is worsening their future prospects.

For many years, an international group of scientists has been monitoring the movements of rare golden eagles nesting in the wetlands of Eastern Europe using GPS transmitters. According to Ülo Väli, an associate professor at the Estonian University of Life Sciences, who participated in the study, the movement of birds migrating through Ukraine has recently been closely monitored, because just as war affects people, other species often cannot escape suffering either.

A paper just published in the academic journal Current Biology provides an in-depth analysis of the migration of Greater Spotted Eagles through Ukraine in 2022, when combat activity was at its most extensive. It turned out that the eagles stayed away from active war zones during their migrations. Their migration routes were longer than usual and the migration lasted longer. The eagles also flew more slowly, but refrained from stopping, so their energy reserves were not restored. The researchers also analyzed the effect of weather, but this did not explain the observed changes.

According to Väli, a large part of Estonian eagles also fly through Ukraine. None of the Greater Spotted Eagle from Estonia tracked with a GPS transmitter have passed through Ukraine in recent years, but the representatives of the closely related species Lesser Spotted Eagle have been caught up in the whirlwind of war. “One of them flew over Kherson in the fall of 2022 just during the battles for the liberation of the right bank of the Dnieper. The other one got into the most intense battle chaos at the famous Kahhovka dam, but luckily it was able to come,” the professor said.

However, it is far from a joke. Altered migration imposes greater energy costs on eagles and may harm their breeding success, which in turn diminishes the future prospects of these globally threatened birds. It is feared that bald eagles are just one example of many how the war in Ukraine is harming populations of endangered species.

Additional information: Ülo Väli, Associate Professor of the Chair of Biodiversity and Nature Tourism
Estonian University of Life Sciences –

This article was originally published on the webpage of the Estonian University of Life Sciences.

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