The state Department of Conservation and National Resources is cooperating with a West Virginia University study on the migratory habits of golden eagles.
Steve Shaffer, a ranger with DCNR in the Tuscarora State Forest, is among those helping with the survey tracing the migration of the eastern golden eagle, which winters locally and spends summers beyond the tree line in the Canadian tundra.
The study, coordinated by Dr. Todd Katzner, research assistant professor in West Virginia University’s Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, is designed to pinpoint the migratory routes of the birds. It also will help to facilitate the placing of wind farms in central and western Pennsylvania.
Wind farms in California have contributed to a high mortality rate among western golden eagles, particularly in the Altamont Pass where an estimated 880 to 1,300 raptors are killed annually by a wind turbine facility. Among them are from 75 to 110 golden eagles.
The migratory habits of the eastern golden eagle flow through a bottleneck between the Tuscarora Forest and Pittsburgh, a prime corridor for the placement of wind turbines in the future, Shaffer said.
As part of the local survey, Shaffer and others have been baiting a camera site in the western end of Perry County with road-kill deer and recording the images of golden eagles and other predators such as coyotes and bobcats drawn to the bait.
Shaffer recently participated in the trapping of a 10-pound golden eagle, a large female, which was captured in a cannon net and equipped with a transmitter. The device captures GPS coordinates every 10 minutes and saves them until the eagle wanders close enough to a cell signal for the data to be uploaded.
Such data from eagles will facilitate an understanding of how the birds hug the ridge lines as they hunt for food, and allow researchers to plan for bird-friendly wind turbines.
The golden eagle is larger than the bald eagle, with a wingspan of up to eight feet or so. It preys on small animals and has even been known to take small deer.
For information about the project, readers may visit the website at katznerlab.com/wind-, or go to a special Facebook site for the local project at www.facebook.com/pages/Tuscarora-State-Forest/156162057781514.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding