Golden eagle winters in northwest Georgia forests

Release Date: Feb 11, 2015  

Contact(s): Holly Krake, 770-297-3095

          In 2014 North America’s largest bird of prey found a winter home in the Chattahoochee National Forest. This year, the Forest Service is again working in support of a West Virginia University study to determine how large the eastern population of wintering golden eagles really is by monitoring the site where the bird was spotted last year on the Conasauga Ranger District.


            “A juvenile golden eagle was documented on the forest on multiple days,” said Ruth Stokes, a wildlife biologist on the Conasauga Ranger District. “These results highlight the health of the forest for wildlife habitat and we are hoping for the same success in 2015.”


            The golden eagle, which is facing a general population decline, is uncommon in the eastern United Sates and can often maintain territories as large as 60 square miles. The bird has an average wing span of six and a half feet, and typically feeds on small mammals such as rabbits and squirrels. Healthy forests, including adequate prey species and large contagious tracts of woodland are essential components of golden eagle habitat.


            “In the future, we hope to identify individual eagles with ‘facial’ recognition software,” Stokes added. “Ongoing partnerships and volunteer efforts, such as this study, allow us to work with a species in decline that is poorly understood.”


            The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forestsprovide the finest outdoor recreation opportunities and natural resources in Georgia. Featuring nearly 867,000 acres across 26 counties, thousands of miles of clear-running streams and rivers, approximately 850 miles of recreation trails, and dozens of campgrounds, picnic areas, and other recreation activity opportunities, these lands are rich in natural scenery, history and culture. The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests is part of the Southern Region, with the Forest Supervisor’s office in Gainesville, Georgia, managing four District units in Blairsville (Blue Ridge District), Lakemont (Chattooga River District), Chatsworth (Conasauga District), and Eatonton (Oconee District). 

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