Revealing unexpected uses of space by wintering Aquila pomarina: how does satellite telemetry identify behaviour at different scales?

Bernd-Ulrich Meyburg, Stephie Mendelsohn, John Mendelsohn and Helen Margaret de Klerk

Journal of Avian Biology 46: 1–10.


Little is understood about the dispersion and movements of Palaearctic migrant raptors while wintering in southern Africa. The high temporal and spatial resolution of GPS telemetry data provided the opportunity to describe how space is used by one such migratory raptor in its wintering range, the lesser spotted eagle Aquila pomarina. Kernel density estimation was used to map the distribution of three individuals at various spatial scales. In addition to their extremely large overall wintering range (up to 112 000 km2), three finer levels of spatial concentration were identified: favoured activity zones where the birds spent much of the winter, smaller core areas to which the birds returned each year, and tiny intensive foraging clusters. Philopatry was demonstrated by one bird which revisited core areas over eight wintering seasons. The same core areas, particularly the Waterberg, Grootfontein (Namibia) and the eastern and western sides of the Okavango Delta (Botswana), were visited by two other eagles in 2012/2013, although not simultaneously. Such results potentially provide important information on areas where conservation activities might be focused to mitigate human degradation of habitat.