Rare Golden Eagle tagged in Northwest Georgia

After three years of photographing Golden Eagles in the Chattahoochee National Forest at a site near Dalton, Georgia, biologists and researchers were finally able to capture and tag one of the elusive birds on February 22, 2017. Uncommon in the eastern United States and facing a population decline across the country, the bird’s multiple sightings underscore the value of active forest management.

“A healthy predator-prey habitat for this rare eagle consists of large contiguous forests that offer plenty of sunlight and a low density of trees,” said Ruth Stokes, a wildlife biologist on the Conasauga Ranger District of the Chattahoochee National Forest. “For over a decade, we have used thinning and prescribed fire to restore and maintain healthy, open woodlands in much of the Armuchee area, benefitting many species along with the eagle.” 

Golden Eagle release

With an average wingspan of six and a half feet, the majestic Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) is unmistakable as it feeds at the national forest site set up as part of a West Virginia University research study. Now in its fourth year on the Chattahoochee National Forest and tenth year nationally, the study is helping to determine the population size of wintering Golden Eagles across the southeast. Apart from thousands of photographs collected of Golden Eagles at research sites across the study area, scientists are also banding, measuring and placing transmitters on some of the birds. This effort will use new technology to spatially map migration corridors and habitat use in regions with high potential for wind energy generation.

The tagged Georgia bird is part of a small, geographically separate population of eastern Golden Eagles distinct from western populations, many of which typically do not migrate. Georgia’s visiting Golden Eagles may travel through the Chattahoochee National Forest during winter months, migrating north to Canada and Alaska in warmer seasons. Golden Eagles need woodland habitats, which are open areas within the forest where sunlight is plentiful and shade is limited. These areas, filled with grasses and herbaceous plants, support lots of prey species.

“To have one of North America’s largest birds of prey wintering right here in Georgia is truly amazing,” added Stokes. “Partnerships and volunteer efforts continue to help us more fully understand this species in decline.”

Find photos and video on our Flickr site and on our Facebook page (@ChattOconeeNF). 

More information on this project and Golden Eagles in Georgia at http://georgiawildlife.com/GoldenEagles.

 

Video: A Golden Eagle is released by Rex Rymer, who has worked for 36 years as a wildlife technician on the Chattahoochee National Forest, after being measured, tagged and fitted with a transmitter that will track its migration pattern as part of a West Virginia University research study. The site is on the Chattahoochee National Forest near Dalton, Georgia.

Scientists fit a leg band onto a Golden EagleBiologist Ruth Stokes holds a tagged Golden Eagle

 

A Golden Eagle is measured, tagged and fitted with a transmitter that will track its migration pattern as part of a West Virginia University research study on February 22, 2017. The site is on the Chattahoochee National Forest near Dalton, Georgia.

WVU Map showing migration of Golden Eagles from Southern Appalachians to Canada

The movement of Golden Eagles fitted with transmitters migrating through the Southern Appalachians from the spring of 2014 to winter of 2015 is mapped by Western Virginia University as part of a study to estimate their population size and migration routes. The tagged Golden Eagle from the Chattahoochee National Forest in February 2017 will be tracked as part of this ongoing study.