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WESTERN Bald Eagle Migration Update: May 4, 1998

Todays Report Includes:

Latest Travels of Western Eagles
Click to see full map.

Latest Satellite Migration Data

News from Biologist Jim Watson

Hello Students:
Many of the eagles that we are following have ended their journeys this spring. For those eagles that are nesting, a new journey is beginning...check out this web site to get an "eagle's eye view" of this journey every 15 minutes:

Photo: USFWS

A Peak Inside the Eagle's Nest

Click here
for live view of
Bald Eagles Nesting In Western Massachusetts

Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife

Shared Eagles
Canadian & U.S. Eagles Cross International Boundaries

As we near the end of our journey, it might be interesting to talk about how the information we have learned this spring will be used to better protect eagles and their habitats. As is the case with all animals, bald eagles don't recognize international or political boundaries.

Photo: USFWS

What we have learned is that the wintering bald eagle population in Washington includes breeding eagles from Canada and Alaska. These eagles that may spend from 1-2 months each winter in Washington. Also, from other satellite telemetry studies we have done, eagles that nest or hatch in Washington (that includes 1160 adults from 580 nests that raise about 500 young every year), spend from 2-5 months in Canada and Alaska each fall.

It is difficult to figure out how many "Canadian" eagles we feed in Washington in the winter since our population includes Alaska birds, but 15 of 20 (75%) birds we have monitored in the study were from Canadian provinces. If that is representative of the whole population, then of the 3,000 eagles that may winter in Washington, 2,250 are from British Columbia, the Yukon Territory, and Northwest Territories.

Photo: USFWS

These eagles are part of the 10,000 adult eagles (5,000 nesting pairs) in these Canadian provinces. The Canadian population of bald eagles has been important to the population recovery of the bald eagle, which is a threatened species throughout the United States. When bald eagles declined earlier this century from the progression of pesticides (i.e., DDT) through their food chain, the seacoast of Alaska and British Columbia remained one of the last strongholds of eagles in pristine habitat.

This abundance can also be a detriment. Since bald eagles in Canada are not the national symbol, and are considered to be extremely common, they do not receive the same special protection in Canada as in the United States (other than the birds and nest trees being protected). From our research, however, we have learned that "our" population of eagles is "their" population of eagles and vice versa. Therefore, it makes the most sense to manage these eagle populations on a the basis of "flyways", which are more appropriate from the eagle's perspective.

This requires working cooperatively with biologists from Canada to "overcome" political and international boundaries and do what is in the bird's best interest. We have begun to do that by providing information to researchers and provincial biologists (Ministry of the Environment) on areas important to "our" Washington in eagles in Canada, and where "their" eagles winter in Washington. We exchange information over a bald eagle discussion page on the internet, which is managed by the University of British Columbia. I am presently engaged in discussions with researchers as to the need to protect communal night roosts along the flight corridors we have identified from our satellite telemetry studies.

Providing Canadian biologists with that knowledge provides greater incentive for habitat protection, since "our" eagles are considered threatened. Understanding the general movements of these international eagles also mutually gives us the ability to interpret long-term population trends, by understanding where the eagles come from and when.

Jim Watson
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Final Analysis
A Look at Spring and Fall Migration from 1997

Now that you've discovered the destinations of Eagles #05 and #16, we'll add to their stories. In our next and FINAL update, Jim Watson will provide data from each bird's Fall, '97 and Spring, '97 migrations. How do you suppose their routes will compare from year to year and from season to
season? Before you draw any final conclusions about eagle migration, wait to see how this information adds to the picture.

The FINAL Bald Eagle Migration Update will Be Posted on May 18, 1998.

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