In 2008 we began a satellite tracking project to help us learn more about the movements of young ospreys as they migrated for the first time from Loch Garten to their wintering grounds in West Africa.

Tracking these young ospreys would not only provide us with information on their migration route, but also give us a clearer picture of the mortality rates in these young birds. Each year, we fitted the eldest two chicks with satellite tracking tags. 

The satellite tracking map shows you the various routes the tagged birds took.

We discovered that the young ospreys took very different routes from each other, due to navigating on their own rather than following a parent. Ten of the 12 tracked birds successfully made it to their wintering grounds, all in West Africa, with the exception of one, Caledonia, who settled in Seville, Spain. 

Perhaps not surprisingly for fish-eating birds, rivers and coastlines proved to be important navigation aids.

Journey speed seemed to vary between male and female ospreys - males being faster than the females, although one female, Alba, was the fastest of all our tracked birds, completing her trip to West Africa in just two weeks.  

While we might give Loch Garten's ospreys a safe home, watch over them and see them safely on their way, sadly one of the project's findings was that on-migration mortality is high in inexperienced ospreys.

Young ospreys do not return to the UK to breed until they are two-to-three years old. Unfortunately, none of the young birds survived past the age of two, with the exception of Rothes who made a partial return journey two years later, travelling as far north as France before returning south again to Guinea-Bissau. Rothes survived to the age of three.

Only one bird continues to be tracked - Breagha, from 2013.


Photo gallery

Browse images of the ospreys being fitted with their rings and satellite tags.

Satellite tracking map

Click the name of a bird to view their route.

Follow the journey of these ospreys in more detail by downloading their satellite data for your copy of Google Earth.

Get the routes for Google Earth

Watch the film

The RSPB's Richard Thaxton and volunteer Clare Wordley delight in the magnificent ospreys that have been returning to Loch Garten since 1959.

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Birds of prey continue to be killed, despite the fact that it is illegal and has been for decades. Some are still shot or poisoned, and their nests are targeted by egg-collectors. Please add your voice to our campaign to stop the killing.

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The RSPB at Abernethy National Nature Reserve, situated in the Cairngorms National Park, is grateful to BG-Group and Cairngorms LEADER + for their support for this project. The RSPB Loch Garten Osprey Tracking Programme has been generously funded by The Baxters Foundation, Fochabers, Moray.