1 November 2021

Update on south Scotland golden eagle Speckled Jim


by Philip M.

1 November 2021

We’ve been monitoring the progress of the eight golden eagle juveniles that we released earlier in the summer. They are all settling into their new home and beginning to fend for themselves.

One of them, Speckled Jim, has evidently managed to remove his harness, which had a satellite tag attached to it.

Our team closely follows the movements of each released bird, and we noticed that one of the tags had become stationery for a long period of time.

A careful search of the area revealed Jim’s discarded satellite tag, which had clearly fallen off the bird. An inspection of the site and the tag and harness threads by our team and Police Scotland, points to the eagle having removed the tag himself.

We thoroughly investigated the incident and ruled out a number of other scenarios before coming to this conclusion. The damage to the harness would suggest he’d picked at the stitching himself and we didn’t find any eagle feathers on or near the site, which point to the bird being calm and stationery when the harness came off.

We will continue our strenuous efforts to find Jim, so that we can confirm he is OK. Each bird is fitted with uniquely coded leg rings, and John Wright, our eagle officer, can identify each bird based on its feather patterning. Jim in particular has a unique speckled pattern, which inspired his name, so we will know when we’ve found him.

Project Manager Cat Barlow explained: “When tags transmit no movement by birds during prolonged periods during the day we immediately investigate. In this case, we had excellent support from members of our Science Advisory Panel in locating where the tag was on the ground. A meticulous field search retrieved the tag, and a further painstaking search with support from Police Scotland did not reveal any feathers of the eagle. We believe he managed to remove the tag whilst he was feeding on carrion.”

The project staff will continue to work with local raptor specialists and land managers to locate Speckled Jim.