New Jersey EagleTrax
EagleTrax helps scientists learn about the non-breeding, sub-adult period of a bald eagle’s life cycle and use the data collected to help protect communal roost sites.
Advances in wildlife tracking devices have given scientists the chance to address a broad range of questions that could not have been answered before. For many species of birds we are now able to examine their daily and annual lives in a way never before possible. Partly because of their large size, bald eagles have been at the forefront of exploring this technology.
Bald eagles have made a remarkable recovery in New Jersey over the last forty years. Up from only one nesting pair in 1982 there are now over 200 pairs being monitored. However, our biologists still know relatively little about bald eagle's adolescence. Conserve Wildlife Foundation launched New Jersey EagleTrax to learn about this non-breeding, sub-adult period of a their life cycle and use the data collected to help protect communal roost sites.
Juvenile eagles are tracked by attaching a solar charged, battery powered satellite GPS transmitter to them. The data collected includes their exact location, altitude, flight speed, date and time of day. The transmitters let us see where the eagles go to forage and roost at night. We can also see where they disperse to, after fledging, and where they return to (near their natal areas).
This project began in the summer of 2011 when two "hatch year" eagles from Merrill Creek Reservoir were fitted with solar-powered transmitters that are monitored via satellites. In 2014 Biologists chose one eagle from Atlantic County, a male named "Nacote" and a female, named "Millville" from Cumberland County to be in the telemetry study. As the study progressed additional eagles have been banded. We are currently tracking two eagles, Harmony 2 and Pedro, who you can read about below.
On the top of the map you will see the names of the birds that are or have been tracked. The default bird is "Nacote." On the left hand side you will see the years that the bird has been tracked. Once you click on a year then you can select a month of the year to view his animated journey. To change the map layer, click on the box in the upper right. Zoom in or out using the buttons or pinch and zoom using your fingers or the wheel on your mouse.
Eagles we are currently tracking:
“Harmony 2” (banded D/64) was tagged at Merrill Creek Reservoir, Warren County. She fledged in 2012 and spent her first winter on lower Chesapeake Bay before traveling to Maine. She has spent the last six years in a 100-mile swath of western Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont. We suspected she would nest in that area, but in January 2019 she headed down to NY along the Long Island Sound. From January 9th until now, she has been in the same area which confirms nesting.
- Hatch date: ~April 9
- Fledge date: ~July 19
- Measurements at 7 weeks of age:
- Culmen: 43.45 mm
- Bill depth: 28.8 mm
- Tarsus: 16.40 mm
- Hallux claw: 38.4 mm
- Weight: 3.80kg
- Sex: Female
On the evening of Sunday, April 15th, three bald eagles were found in a Salem County farm field, but all was not right. They did not fly away when approached, and two could barely stand upright. With night falling, several rescuers scrambled to get to them, including Dr. Erica Miller and Eagle Project volunteer John Fox. It turns out the eagles had scavenged on a dead fox that had died from poisoning. The eagles were suffering from secondary poisoning and could die without quick treatment. Dr. Miller got to the site to assist with the capture of all three birds, and administered treatment to counteract the effects. All three were held for treatment and recovery at Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research in Newark, DE. One would not make it, but two did survive.
“Pedro” is one of the survivors. As a four year old bald eagle, he has a mostly white head, but still has a mix of brown feathers in his head and tail. He has also beaten the odds by making it to four years old, and thus makes a great candidate for a satellite tag to track his habitat use in south Jersey.
On Sunday, April 29th, two weeks after he nearly died, bald eagle E/62 was released from the field behind Tri-State in Delaware. Nicknamed “Pedro” (for his “hometown” of Pedricktown), he flew beautifully back into the wild. About one day after release, he had crossed the Delaware River, back into Salem County, back home. Since being released Pedro has spent his time ranging from southern NJ to Assunpink in Monmouth County.
Eagles No Longer Being Tracked
Merrill Creek Reservior
In June of 2011 two chicks (male & female) from the Merrill Creek Reservoir eagle nest in Warren County were fitted with solar-powered transmitters that are monitored via satellites. 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 on the shoulder of the highway.
Unfortunately the female chick died in October, 2011 due to starvation. She tested positive for West Nile Virus which could have contributed to her death. The transmitter was recovered from the female and in May of this year the transmitter was placed on the largest of three chicks, Harmony, in the Merrill Creek nest.
In 2013, we tagged “Haliae” (D/88) as a Merrill Creek nestling. She fledged and spent the winter of 2013-14 ranging around northern Chesapeake Bay in MD. In April, 2014, she headed through PA and NY and into Canada. In June she was back in NJ’s Warren County, though she continued to wander and spent that summer in northern Maine and Canada. In fall, 2014, she headed to eastern PA, and spent most of 2015, 2016 part of 2017 on Maryland’s eastern shore. She spent the fall ranging around eastern PA and northern MD, generally around the Susquehanna River. On November 17, 2017 she was photographed at Conowingo Dam, MD and one of the straps on her harness was noticeably loose. She was spotted again April 12, 2018 along the Susquehanna River in Darlington, Maryland. One of the straps on her harness was noticeably loose. We continued to recieve signals until September 22nd when the last signal was received from Whiteford, MD. Then on October 22nd another signal was received from the same location, which suggested the transmitter could have fallen off. Eagle Project volunteers Jeff & Cathy white went out the next day to search for the transmitter and found it on the ground and no sign of Haliae. We wish her well!
- Hatch date: ~April 4
- Fledge date: ~June 19
- Measurements at 8 weeks of age:
- Culmen: 48.65 mm
- Bill depth: 33.0 mm
- Tarsus: 16.50 mm
- Hallux claw: 36.9 mm
- Weight: 3.60 kg
- Sex: Female
Other New Jersey Locations
The nest where Millville hatched is on the upper Maurice River, in a tall pine with a beautiful river view. Mick Valent made the climb up as the crew watched from the river, and that's where we confirmed there were three eaglets in the nest. With Mick's approach to the nest, two of the eaglets moved away from his side of the 8-foot wide nest and out of his reach. One eaglet, probably the youngest of the three, remained close enough and became one of our study eagles. She was lowered to the ground where she was measured and fitted with the transmitter. She was about 8.3 weeks of age, perhaps a week behind her siblings. The banding date was May 19, and she remained close to the nest until late July, venturing out to Delaware Bay marshes and back in early August. As of mid-September she remains in southern NJ.
Sadly, this bird died only a few months after fledging. She was found dead on November 24, 2014 near the Chesapeake Bay. Fortunately, her GPS transmitter was recovered and was re-deployed on "Oran" in 2015.
The nest on Nacote Creek is difficult to monitor, so the eagle banding crew was walking into the site without knowing the chick's age with certainty. Mick Valent climbed the 70' tall pine tree, and just as he was going over the rim of the nest, the eagle nestling decided to jump rather than wait to see what happened. He was about 8.5 weeks of age, and his wings were adequate to float him to a soft landing on the salt marsh, where he was easily picked up by Dr. Erica Miller. He was fine, and we proceeded to take the standard measurements before attaching the transmitter. "Nacote" was back in the nest in short order. That was on May 6, and according to the transmitter data, he first moved away from the nest tree on May 22, but he remained within about 1/4 mile for more than one week as he learned flying and landing skills. He made a bold northern movement in late July, and as of mid-September was in Canada.
“Nacote” was banded as a nestling in the summer of 2014 and fledged in July. He surprised everyone when he made a big northern movement in August, 2014, heading due north and out of transmission range. He returned to northern New York where his transmitter’s data downloaded to our computers, showing he’d spent most of the fall in a remote area of Quebec. He returned to southern NJ in November, 2014, and spent the rest of 2015 and 2016 in Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties. He has been photographed several times at Forsythe NWR in Atlantic County. In the beginning of January 2018 Nacote was in Cape May County. His transmitter began to fail and the last signal was recevied on January 23, 2018.
- Hatch date: ~March 10
- Fledge date: ~July
- Measurements at 8.5 weeks of age:
- Culmen: 43.45 mm
- Bill depth: 28.8 mm
- Tarsus: 14.90 mm
- Hallux claw: 33.8 mm
- Weight: 3.70 kg
- Sex: Male
“Oran” is an eagle banded and tagged as a nestling on Delaware Bay in 2015. After fledging he spent late summer and fall moving across Cumberland and Cape May counties. On November 17, 2015, he flew across Delaware Bay and spent the winter in the farmland and woodlands of Maryland’s eastern shore. He returned to NJ in spring, 2016, and spent most of his time ranging around Cumberland County. In mid-July he made a two-day flight to Maine, and went out of range along the Quebec/Maine border. During this time his transmitter started to malfunction. It was not recording the typical number of points during the day and we weren't sure what was causing the problem.
Luckily Oran's transmitter kept working and he returned to cellular range in late September as he flew to the Maine coast. By October 3 he was already back in Cape May County. Oran had been around the lower Maurice River on October 24 when his tag stopped transmitting; 11 days later the tag “pinged” at a farm field in Maryland. A Maryland state biologist investigated this for us, and found the transmitter in a harvested corn field, with no sign of any eagle. The transmitter was intact but the harness was in pieces, looking like it had gone through the harvester. We do not know what happened, but it’s possible the backpack harness came loose and Oran pulled it off. We won’t know for sure unless we get a resighting of Oran that includes identification of his green aux. band. We surely hope he is alive and well!
- Hatch date: ~March 19
- Fledge date: ~June 4
- Measurements at 8.5 weeks of age:
- Culmen: 44.5 mm
- Bill depth: 29.3 mm
- Tarsus: 15.0 mm
- Hallux claw: 35.0 mm
- Weight: 3.60 kg
- Sex: Male
Learn more about Bald eagles in New Jersey:
- Bald Eagle Project information, including brochures and annual reports
- Bald eagle life history
- Watch live as a pair of bald eagles nest and raise young at Duke Farms
Find Related Info: Bald Eagles