Environment

A breeding pair of golden eagles known to winter in Bernheim Research Forest and Arboretum have flown the coop, so to speak, to summer at their nesting grounds in the Canadian wilderness. 

After a winter spent flying over the forested knobs around Bernheim Forest, the eagles, known as Harper and Athena, departed together on the very same day. Bernheim Conservation Director Andrew Berry said they depart around the same time every year.

“So they wait until they have the right weather system coming through, you get a wind that’s coming out of the south that will carry them on their migration,” Berry said. “This year when they migrated, it was a little earlier than in years past, it was actually March the 6th, and we saw both of them leave Bernheim within a 30-minute span.”

Researchers have been tracking the eagles to learn more about golden eagle populations in the eastern United States. 

They began tracking Harper, the male, in 2015 using a solar-powered GPS tracker attached to the raptor’s back. A couple years ago, they did the same with Athena. Bernheim believes they could be the first breeding pair of golden eagles to be tracked in the United States and possibly the world.

This time, the pair traveled together for a bit, then split off in different directions, as they have in the past. Athena headed up through Michigan, where researchers with the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch spotted her. Harper is traveling through Wisconsin. 

Berry believes the pair nested and raised at least one eaglet two seasons ago, based on their behaviors using the GPS trackers. Last year, they didn’t repeat those behaviors, though they continue to act as mates. 

“So it’s going to be interesting to see if the pair is able to reunite and if we are able to get data throughout the summer, see if they are successfully able to breed this year,” he said.  

Berry expects they’ll reunite in the Canadian wilderness sometime in April. 

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Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.