The bird, which was first identified as a vulture but is reportedly a bald eagle, was captured last week by a local hunter in a remote area of the Saudi desert. The bird was wearing a GPS transmitter and a leg bracelet with the words "Tel Aviv University," according to reports that began with the Israeli daily Ma'ariv.
Within hours, reports that Israel was using birds of prey in a Zionist espionage plot went viral on many Arabic-language websites and forums, according to Saudi Arabia's Al-Weeam newspaper.
Though the vulture was tagged in a way to indicate it was part of a scientific study of migration patterns, its arrival in Saudi Arabia came at an inopportune time. Last month, after a string of shark attacks on tourists in the Red Sea, a South Sinai governor suggested they might be a plot by Israeli secret agents.
"What is being said about the Mossad throwing the deadly shark [in the sea] to hit tourism in Egypt is not out of the question, but it needs time to confirm," South Sinai Gov. Mohamed Abdel Fadil Shousha said, according to Reuters.
Prince Bandar scolded local media outlets for what he said was irresponsible reporting, Emirates 24-7 reported.
"Some of the Saudi journalists rushed in carrying the news of this bird for the sake of getting a scoop without checking the information. ... I am not defending Israel, but we need to be clear. ... They [newspapers] should have asked the competent authorities about the bird before publishing such news."