Conserve Wildlife Blog

Tracking eagles in NJ

February 1st, 2013

Merrill Creek female with transmitter May 29, 2102© Kathy Clark

Merrill Creek female with transmitter May 29, 2102© Kathy Clark

Update On Merrill Creek Birds

By Larissa Smith Wildlife Biologist/Volunteer Manager

Back in August I wrote a blog update on two eagles fitted with transmitters at Merrill Creek Reservoir.

The male eaglet was fitted with the transmitter in July 2011.  In September 2011, the male flew as far west as Harrisburg, PA, and in January 2012 spent a few days in the upper Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.  After that he spent the majority of his time in New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania.

In early January, 2013, biologists became concerned when the signal from the transmitter was not moving.  A team of biologists from the ENSP’s Clinton office went out to search the area but were not able to locate the bird.  Another attempt was made on January 18th and the bird was found dead in the shoulder of the highway.  The carcass was saved for later examination to determine the cause of death, though we suspect it was struck by a vehicle.  The transmitter was still attached to the bird, and it will be refurbished and placed on another eaglet this nesting season.

So far, two out of the three eaglets outfitted with transmitters have not survived.  Juvenile eagles have a high rate of mortality as they learn to live on their own and aren’t yet the most skilled hunters or fliers.  We are learning a lot about these young eagles and their habitat choices and migratory movements.  Unfortunately, we are also learning that they face many perils in the wild, as we have seen with the first eagle infected with West Nile virus, and the second struck by a vehicle.

In May, 2012, a transmitter was placed on the largest of three eaglets in the Merrill Creek nest.  She fledged in July and remained in the nest area until September 10, when she took a quick flight south.  She continues to be tracked around the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula in coastal Virginia, a favorite wintering area for many immature eagles.  To follow her movements (and to see the movements of the other eagles) go to:

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