05 April 2021
Livestream launched from eagle's nest by KFU ornithologist Rinur Bekmansurov

The nest is situated in Almetyevsk Municipal District, Tatarstan.

The species in question is eastern imperial eagle Aquila heliaca. Dr. Bekmansurov uses the equipment provided by Lower Kama National Park, partly funded by local petroleum giant Tatneft.

Bekmansurov has been studying large birds of prey for over 10  years now. In particular, he performs annual ringing on birds to follow their migratory patterns and population statistics.

“In the United States, livestreams from the nests of white-headed eagles have been provided for several years now. The same technology is in use in Europe. The value is that we can receive unique knowledge – full nesting cycle, preparation for mating, egg laying and hatching, and various negative factors leading to the death of a particular clutch. We can see what parents feed to their chicks, which is also an interesting material,” he explains. “We tried to launch the project in 2018, but it didn’t get going from the first try. We first installed a webcam in a nest of a white-tailed eagle, but these birds are known for their skittishness, so they were wary of that new thing in the nest, and that’s probably why the mating didn’t occur. The next season, we found out that the female had died during winter, and a new couple didn’t come to be. The same project got off to a good start in a nest of spotted eagles, but this time the male died, and the mating again didn’t happen. This time, we decided to switch to the imperial eagle. I consulted with my Estonian and Latvian colleagues with regards to the use of equipment and its concealment. We had to find an area with 4G cover and to install a camera before the birds arrived.”

In Russia, the imperial eagle’s proud name is often replaced by a much less attractive ‘mogil’nik,’ which stands for “grave dweller.” Some scientists think this was due a mistake – some time in the 19th century observers probably mistook the imperial eagle for the steppe eagle; the latter indeed has a knack for sitting on top of burial mounds while hunting for ground squirrels.

“We already know of over 200 nesting sites of imperial eagles in Tatarstan. The larger part is in the southeast of the province, where there are many petroleum industry objects, and nests are often situated near such infrastructure. Another fact of late is that the feeding ground has been decreasing, and eagles started nesting closer to human habitats. Every year, we find nests destroyed by humans – sometimes eagles prey on domestic fowl, and fowl owners retaliate. We try to show people the value of these stately birds, one of the most prominent representatives of local fauna, and try to convince everyone to forgive the eagles for such misdeeds. We also try to prevent technological processes of the petroleum industry from damaging the nests.”

About this particular couple chosen as stars of the livestream, Bekmansurov says, “They had two younglings each time in 2018 and 2019, and three – in 2020. Unfortunately, in 2020 one young female died in an electric wire.”

Airborne electric lines are always a danger to birds, so the scientist urges their owners to reconstruct the lines for safety.

“When I was a student, we could only see eagles in the sky. Now, in this digital era, biology students have a unique opportunity to observe eagles in their everyday life and to write three-four papers in a single seasons if they are duly diligent,” shares Bekmansurov enthusiastically.

The project has multiple participants apart from the Yelabuga Institute of KFU, such as Tatneft, State Committee for Biological Resources of Tatarstan, Ministry of Forestry of Tatarstan, Russian Network for Studies and Protection of Birds of Prey, and Russian Bird Protection Union.


Source text: Yelabuga Institute

Translation: Yury Nurmeev

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