Headlines of fowl accused of spying for Israel are making rounds again in Middle Eastern press, with the most recent bird of espionage 'arrested' in Lebanon. Hezbollah and Iranian-affiliated websites reported today that an Israeli 'spy eagle' had been caught this past weekend in Lebanon. According to one Lebanese news site, the eagle had been caught in the town of Achkout by local hunters who alerted authorities after discovering that the bird had an ID ring attached to its leg with the words "Israel" and "Tel Aviv University" printed on it.
The Hezbollah- affiliated Al-Manar TV, whose news site's section on Israel is simply called "Enemy Entity," claimed that the eagle was one of many birds sent by Israel to spy and gather information via GPS transmitters across the Middle East. The report pointed to the "arrest of birds carrying similar devices" in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and most recently in Egypt.
Another Lebanese news site, Maharat News, claimed that the 'spying birds' previously "sparked media uproar and political tension between those countries [Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt] and Israel."
Tel Aviv University responded with the following statement, "this morning, the media reported on an Israeli 'spy" that was caught by Hezbollah. The 'spy' is a predatory fowl that was part of a research project conducted by Tel Aviv University on raptors." Furthermore, Israel's Nature and Parks Authority stated that the eagle was born in a breeding center in southern Israel and had been released a couple of years ago.
Ohad Hatzofeh, one of the Tel Aviv University bird researchers who identified the eagle told Tazpit News Agency that he was "fed up" with the eagle 'spy' accusations.
The past year has been filled with bird-spying accusations against Israel. In July, Turkish authorities detained a kestrel which was referred to as an "Israeli agent" by Turkish press because it had metal ring with "Tel Avivunia Israel" on it. The kestrel was placed in an X-ray machine at a university hospital, undergoing a scan for bugging devices. After successfully passing the surveillance, it was freed.
Egypt detained a stork in late August on allegations for spying for Israel because authorities were suspicious of a tracking device that had been placed by scientists to record its migration. The stork was let go, but was eventually killed on an island near the Nile and eaten by local villagers.
In 2011, Saudi Arabia apprehended a vulture, accusing it of being an Israeli spy because of a GPS device with the suspicious "Tel Aviv University" tag on its leg. The vulture was eventually freed.
Scientists often tag birds in the study of ornithology in order to keep track of the migration routes and journeys that birds make. At least 500 millions birds pass through Israel every year during spring and autumn on migratory routes.