What landscapes do golden eagles prefer?

By Dana Kobilinsky

Golden eagles seem to prefer large undeveloped areas, according to new research. ©Tony Hisgett

Golden eagle numbers seem to be soaring in elevated, undeveloped landscapes with high wind speeds, according to recent research.

As part of a study published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers looked at golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) abundance in four bird conservation regions in the western United States.

The team — led by Ryan Nielson, a senior biometrician at Western EcoSystems Technology, Inc. and a member of The Wildlife Society — used existing data from aerial surveys and distance sampling collected in the late summers of 2006-2013 to model golden eagle numbers, taking into consideration land cover and other environmental factors.

Nielson and his team’s model showed that there were fewer golden eagles in more developed and forested lands and more eagles in open, elevated areas with high wind speeds. Using this model, the team developed a map of eagle abundance in the areas they looked at in order to predict land used by eagles during the late summer.

According to a press release, the authors say this map could help scientists prioritize areas that would benefit from increased eagle conservation efforts as well as research and monitoring.

Dana KobilinskyDana Kobilinsky is associate editor at The Wildlife Society. Contact her at dkobilinsky@wildlife.org with any questions or comments about her article. You can follow her on Twitter at @DanaKobi.

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