Sponsored by National Eagle Center
In mid-January, more than 200 citizen scientist volunteers from the National Eagle Center spread out across the blufflands of southeast Minnesota, western Wisconsin and eastern Iowa during the 15th annual Wintering Golden Eagle Survey, January 19, 2019. They were seeking Golden Eagles that winter in the hills and valleys of the region.
The National Eagle Center greatly appreciates all the time and energy that these citizen scientists dedicate to this survey. This year they observed 145 Golden Eagles, the third most ever recorded for the survey.
The last two years were poor weather years, including 2017 with all day fog, which then produced lower sightings of Golden Eagles. Before those poor weather years the number had been increasing over the years, it is likely that the increase is a result of more observers covering a larger area, and more experience on the part of the observers in picking out these hard to spot Golden Eagles. Several more years of data will be needed to show any kind of trends.
Observers also recorded other birds, especially raptors, seen during the survey, including 583 red-tail hawks and 1,391 Bald Eagles. “That’s an amazing number of Bald Eagles for survey areas that are away from the Mississippi River,” says Golden Eagle Project coordinator and National Eagle Center Education Director, Scott Mehus. By comparison, the 2018 survey counted 1,202 Bald Eagles in the same areas.
In the blufflands, Golden Eagles can be observed in the dense forested bluffs, often utilizing the upland prairies, sometime called goat prairies, as hunting grounds. In the upper Midwest, common prey items are squirrels, rabbits and wild turkeys. Golden Eagles are not typically seen near water as they do not feed on fish.
Now in its 15th year, the Golden Eagle Survey has expanded to include survey areas from Stillwater, MN to Dubuque in southern Iowa, and across numerous counties in western Wisconsin. The survey gathers important data to document a regular wintering population of Golden Eagles in the Upper Midwest. The Wintering Golden Eagle Survey is part of an ongoing project to learn more about the Golden Eagle population in the blufflands region, including their migration patterns and habitat needs.