Al-Manar, a Lebanese television station affiliated with Hezbollah, has reported that an Israeli-tagged eagle was captured northeast of Beirut and is accusing Israel of deploying the winged creature to spy and transmit images from over the border.
Per Al-Manar’s account, the eagle was equipped with an implanted receiver as well as an external transmitter, with a metal ring marked “Israel” around its foot.
According to Israeli news site Ynet's summary of the Arabic report, the station said recruiting spies from the animal kingdom is a well-known Israeli practice.
The bird was captured by hunters in Ashqout, Lebanon, the report said.
Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority confirmed to Ynet that the eagle indeed is from Israel but that it’s just one of many birds that are tagged to track migration patterns.
Tel Aviv University said the “spy” is actually part of a university research project.
The Nature Authority checked the bird’s code number broadcast on Lebanese television and determined that it is a Bonelli's Eagle, “one of Israel's rarest and endangered birds of prey,” Ynet reported.
This is not the first allegation of bird-spying leveled at Israel. As TheBlaze reported in July, Turkish veterinary officials X-rayed an Israeli-tagged kestrel after it was accused of being an “Israeli agent.” It was set free once it was determined it wasn’t carrying any spy equipment.
Similar suspicions have arisen over the years in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Ynet reported in 2007 that an Iranian police commander had accused Western powers of releasing 14 squirrels into Iran with spy equipment.
Nature and Parks Authority Chief Aviation Ecologist Ohad Hatzofeh told the Tazpit News Agency he is "fed up" with the bird spying allegations.
Hatzofeh said the 2-year-old eagle found in Lebanon hatched in the Carmel Hai-Bar Nature Reserve in northern Israel and was set free in late 2011.
“The specimen is carrying a tiny radio transmitter, and in the picture you can see its feathers have already begun to change, and it is possible he will start mating in 2014 the spring when he reaches sexually maturity,” Hatzofeh said.