In its natural grassland habitat, the species would usually hunt small mammals and birds © RSCN

6,000 Endangered Steppe Eagles find refuge within refuse dumps

If you wanted to see 6,000 Endangered eagles, a rubbish dump might not be the first place you’d think of looking. But conservationists in Saudi Arabia are working to make these unlikely havens safe for the birds that call them home.

By Dima Obeidat

Nowadays, it is increasingly rare and mesmerising to catch a glimpse of the majestic Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis. This large, powerful bird of prey was once considered the most common large eagle in the world, but has been tragically declining since 1997 – largely due to habitat loss – and since 2015 the species has been listed as Endangered. However, earlier this year, a few lucky conservationists got a sighting they didn’t expect when they found around 6,700 Steppe Eagles at two rubbish dumps 170 kilometres north of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, scavenging on animal carcasses & remains of chickens from animal farms.

The adventure started when a team researching Steppe eagles wintering in Oman noticed that a large proportion of the satellite-tagged Steppe Eagles they were tracking were showing up near the town of Shaqra in central Saudi Arabia. Curious, the team reached out to birders in Saudi Arabia asking for their help. Mischa Keijmel, Technical Manager at an engineering firm, happily obliged.

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