GPS-equipped PH eagle spotted in Quirino

by Charlie Lagasca, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jul 20 2014 11:41 AM | Updated as of Jul 20 2014 07:41 PM

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya – Luzon’s first and so far only “instrumented” Philippine Eagle named Raquel was spotted in Quirino recently, more than three years after she was released back into the wilds of the Sierra Madre forest in San Mariano, Isabela.

The Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) said that it was able to trace Raquel’s location through a miniature global positioning system (GPS) satellite transmitter strapped on her back when she was released by environment and local officials in May 2011, after a year of treatment from injuries sustained from an animal trap.

Raquel is the second Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) to be set free in the Northern Luzon mountain ranges in 12 years.

The first to be released in Luzon was Linglingay, who was set free also in the San Mariano wilds in 2003. Linglingay, however, had no tracking device attached to her when she was released.

Biologists said their species, also known as the Great Philippine Eagle, is among the world’s rarest, largest and most powerful birds.

Vida Lyn Dumadag, PEF communications officer, said that through a satellite tracker, Raquel was again seen gliding over a long and dense riverine forest on the warm morning of July 11 along the border of the two national government-protected areas, the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park and the Quirino Protected Landscape.

The following day, Raquel was again spotted in the area, perched atop a tree below the PEF team’s observation post.

This came after months of search efforts by the team led by PEF biologists Tatiana Abano and Rowell Taraya.

“Raquel appeared healthy and in good shape. Her crop was full which means she already hunted and was feeding well. Her feathers were well-groomed as well. She was also very alert, occasionally raising her head feathers into a flamboyant crest whenever she scanned her surroundings,” Dumadag said.

The PEF believes that it won’t be long before Raquel pairs up, settles in her own territory and breeds, given the excellent habitat conditions in the Sierra Madre forest and its wide menu of prey animals such as palm civets, cloud rats, monkeys, monitor lizards and rufous hornbills.

“(Raquel’s) chances of surviving and breeding to contribute offspring are very high. We anticipate that Raquel would lead us to the first active Philippine Eagle nest in Luzon island,” said Dennis Salvador, PEF executive director.

Until now, he said, no active nest has ever been found on Luzon, where a substantial Philippine Eagle population is suspected to exist. In Mindanao, he said at least 32 eagle nesting sites have been found.

“Luzon and Mindanao belong to two different biographic zones, which means the islands have their own climate pattern and a unique set of plants and animals. This can cause some differences in how (they) live and behave,” he added.

PEF said that “Raquel is a beacon of hope for the conservation and research of eagles in Luzon island.”

PEF’s efforts in the conservation of the Philippine Eagle were made possible with help of San Roque Power Corp., Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Philippine Tropical Forest Conservation Foundation, the Peregrine Fund and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Biodiversity Management Bureau.