Eagles run up huge roaming charges for scientists studying them via SMS

When studying the migration patterns of steppe eagles, remember your phone plan.

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Bonnie Burton
Journalist Bonnie Burton writes about movies, TV shows, comics, science and robots. She is the author of the books Live or Die: Survival Hacks, Wizarding World: Movie Magic Amazing Artifacts, The Star Wars Craft Book, Girls Against Girls, Draw Star Wars, Planets in Peril and more! E-mail Bonnie.
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A steppe eagle takes flight near the India-Pakistan border in Gharana.

Tauseef Mustafa/AFP via Getty Images

Russian scientists tracking migrating steppe eagles copped a hefty phone bill.

The scientists from R.R.R. Conservation Network attached SMS transmitters to 13 eagles to study their migration flight patterns. They aimed to better understand possible threats to the endangered Russian eagle population (the steppe eagle was listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2015).

As the birds migrated four times a day, the scientists received SMS messages with coordinates of the birds' location. They used satellite photos to see where the birds ended up, according to BBC News.

Whenever an SMS message was sent, the Russian phone company MegaFon billed the scientists.

What the scientists didn't count on was one of the tagged birds flying out of range from Kazakhstan to Iran, which ran up huge data roaming charges for the team.

An onslaught of text messages from the bird ended up costing 49 rubles each (approximately 77 cents) -- which was more than five times the expected price, and ended up exceeding the research project's budget, according to The New York Times on Saturday.

But all is not lost. R.R.R. Conservation Network started a crowdfunding campaign to cover the costs, and MegaFon offered a refund for some of the roaming charges and will give the team a special rate to help continue the research project.

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Originally published Oct, 27, 6:01 p.m. PT.