Rehabilitated Golden Eagle with Transmitter Makes Return Trip to Connecticut
A golden eagle that was rehabilitated, fitted with a solar-powered transmitter, and released in northwest Connecticut in March 2011, was recently located back in the same area where it was originally found. The eagle was originally found injured in February 2011 by a snowmobiler in Amenia, New York, near the New York/Connecticut border. With help from Connecticut wildlife rehabilitators at the Sharon Audubon Center and Horizon Wings, the eagle was stabilized and eventually brought to the Tufts Wildlife Clinic in North Grafton, Massachusetts, where it was treated for multiple puncture wounds to its left leg.
After nearly a month of care, the eagle was fully recovered and ready to be released. Upon receiving permission from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), research assistant professor Todd Katzner from West Virginia University banded the eagle with a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service aluminum band and outfitted the bird with a high-frequency GPS-GSM telemetry unit prior to its release at Mohawk State Forest in Cornwall on March 28, 2011.
With a crowd of nearly 50 people watching, the golden eagle was released and gracefully flew off the ridge. In the weeks that followed, the eagle stayed in the tri-state area of Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts before taking a dramatic turn north and heading toward the Quebec/Labrador border in April of last year. At that time, telemetry contact with the bird was lost, and it was not until March of this year that biologists were finally able to receive information again about the whereabouts of this magnificent bird. What followed was a data bonanza that allowed Dr. Katzner to create detailed maps of the bird’s movements for nearly a year.
As it turns out, the eagle had spent the summer in northeastern parts of the Canadian province of Quebec. It then headed south starting in October and returned to the New York/Connecticut area by December 2011. In fact, from December through early March, the eagle spent time near the area where it was originally found injured. Nearly a year later, the bird is making its journey back to its breeding grounds in Canada and is currently heading north on the New York/Massachusetts border.
To date, Dr. Katzner has fitted nearly 25 golden eagles with telemetry gear for the purpose of studying the eastern population of North America’s golden eagles. Golden eagles no longer breed in the eastern United States, so sightings in New England are exceedingly rare and only occur during migration or in winter. Consequently, the eastern population is of great conservation concern. This population is small, geographically separate, and potentially genetically distinct from western populations. The eagles in the eastern population typically breed in northeastern Canada and winter in the southern Appalachians.
“We have gathered huge amounts of basic ecological and behavioral data that we would have never known anything about,” said Dr. Katzner. “It is all new, and it is amazing. Telemetry gives us so much insight into what these birds are doing.” Dr. Katzner hopes to gather more information about the migratory patterns of eastern golden eagles so that he can provide input to ensure that future wind power plants will not be detrimental to sensitive migratory bird species, such as the golden eagle.
Map of the Golden Eagle's movements provided by Trish Miller, West Virginia University
Photo taken by Paul Fusco/CT DEEP Wildlife Division at the Mohawk State Forest release on March 28, 2011