Researchers recently captured a golden eagle in the Bernheim Forest in Bullitt and Nelson counties and fitted it with a tracking device as part of an ongoing research project. Golden eagles are seldom seen in Kentucky.
“Bernheim Forest has a few golden eagles that come back every winter and is one of the more reliable places in the state to see golden eagles,” said Kate Heyden, avian biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “They don’t nest in Kentucky, but spend winters here. Golden eagles that winter here probably nest in Canada.”
Andrew Berry, manager of Bernheim Forest, explained the reason the birds find the area to their liking.
“I think the golden eagles are attracted to the remote forested knobs of Bernheim Forest,” he said. “This bird seems to spend a lot of time hunting field edges on these knobs.”
The researchers, including staff members of Bernheim Forest and Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, captured the adult male bird Feb. 10. Using a road-killed deer carcass as bait, the crew sat in a blind and fired a net over the golden eagle to capture it without harm. The project was funded by Bernheim Forest and the Beckham Bird Club in Louisville.
“We banded, measured, sexed and aged the bird and put a custom-fitted solar powered satellite transmitter on its back that won’t interfere with flying, hunting or breeding,” Heyden said. “We hope to track this bird for three to five years.”
The installation of the tracking device is part of a larger study of eagles in the Appalachian Mountain region. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife began surveying for golden eagles in Kentucky in 2012.
“There are more golden eagles in Kentucky than we thought,” Heyden said. “This is the first one we’ve captured. This golden eagle is extremely healthy and one of the largest I’ve held, weighing 10 ½ pounds.”
Golden eagles typically show up in Kentucky around Thanksgiving and stay until mid-March. The recent warm winds propelled the eagle to begin migrating north March 12; by the next day, it was already near Bloomington, Indiana. As of March 16, the bird had already flown north 275 miles, along the Indiana – Illinois border just south of Chicago.
“The neat thing is we don’t know where it is going to go,” Heyden said. “We would like to see where it goes to nest. We expect this bird to migrate back to Canada.”
Those interested in following the movements of this golden eagle may visit the golden eagle page on the Bernheim Forest website at http://bernheim.org/golden-eagle/.
Article by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.