A collage of images is being shared on social media claiming that the map in the collage shows an eagle’s journey over 20 years. According to the post, the eagle was fitted with a tracker in Russia and was recovered 20 years later after the bird finally died in Saudi Arabia. Sharing the pictures, this post claims that the eagle had travelled great distances crossing many countries but avoided crossing the sea. Let’s verify the claim made in the post.
Claim: Map showing an eagle’s journey over 20 years.
Fact: The map shared in the post depicts the journey of 20 juvenile steppe eagles (Aquila Nipalensis) over a period of one year. Each purple line shows an individual eagle’s journey over eight to ten months. These twenty eagles were tagged with GPS trackers in 2018, in Western Kazakhstan, by the team of Dr. Katzner and Dr. Bragin. The images shared in the post were taken after one of the twenty eagles was found dead in Saudi Arabia in 2019. The map does not show the GPS tracking of a single eagle over twenty years. Hence, the claim made in the post is MISLEADING.
On reverse image search of the screenshots of the photos shared in the post, similar pictures were found in an article published by the ‘Good Times’ website in March 2019. This article reported that a man from the Jizan region in Saudi Arabia had found a dead eagle with a tracking device that recorded every place the bird visited over one year. As per these reports, Fahd Qash, who found the GPS tracker on the dead eagle’s body in Saudi Arabia, later found that the tracker was fitted to the bird in Kazakhstan. Further, the article reported that the dead eagle was a part of a study conducted by a group of scientists on twenty eagles.
When we searched for further sources using the relevant keywords on the internet, we found that an ornithologist named Elena Schneider had published a Facebook post issuing a clarification regarding the rumours circulating about this map on social media. Responding to the social media claims about this map depicting the movement of an eagle over 20 years, Elena Schneider said, “Disclosure! FAKE NEWS! Today many Internet users are excited with a story of an eagle who was tracked by ornithologists for 20 years before it died in Saudi Arabia. Pictures are attached. Unfortunately, 20 years ago we didn’t have such technology of GPS/GSM data transmitting. The map, in fact, depicts tracks of 20 juvenile Steppe Eagles (Aquila nipalensis) that were tagged in 2018 in Western Kazakstan by the team of Dr.Katzner and Dr. Bragin. Photos represent a bird that died in Saudi Arabia. On all images, you can see a juvenile Steppe Eagle.”
The AFP fact-check team contacted Dr.Katzner, to whom Elena Schneider credited the pictures. Speaking to the AFP, Katzner said that he and his team had been studying the migration routes and behaviour of steppe eagles from Central Asia by attaching GPS trackers to the birds. Katzner clarified to AFP that the map shows about 10 months of movement data from 20 steppe eagles from Kazakhstan. Katzner said that each purple line in the map shows the movements of an individual eagle over eight to 10 months. From all these pieces of evidence, it can be concluded that the map shared in the post shows the movement of 20 steppe eagles over 10 months, not a single eagle’s journey over 20 years. The tracking map does show all the eagles avoiding the sea route while travelling to different parts of East Asia and Africa.
To sum it up, a map showing the movement of 20 eagles over one year is shared as the journey of a single eagle over 20 years.