Movement behavior and its relationship to habitat provide critical information toward understanding the effects of changing environments on birds. The eastern North American population of Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) is a genetically distinct and small population of conservation concern. To evaluate the potential responses of this population to changing landscapes, we calculated the home range and core area sizes of 52 eagles of 6 age-sex classes during the summer and winter seasons. Variability in range size was related to variation in topography and open cover, and to age and sex. In summer, eagle ranges that were smaller had higher proportions of ridge tops and open cover and had greater topographic roughness than did larger ranges. In winter, smaller ranges had higher proportions of ridge tops, hillsides and cliffs, and open cover than did larger ranges. All age and sex classes responded similarly to topography and open cover in both seasons. Not surprisingly, adult eagles occupied the smallest ranges in both seasons. Young birds used larger ranges than adults, and subadults in summer used the largest ranges (>.9,000 km2). Eastern adult home ranges in summer were 2-10 times larger than those reported for other populations in any season. Golden Eagles in eastern North America may need to compensate for generally lower-quality habitat in the region by using larger ranges that support access to adequate quantities of resources (prey, updrafts, and nesting, perching, and roosting sites) associated with open cover and diverse topography. Our results suggest that climate change-induced afforestation on the breeding grounds and ongoing land cover change from timber harvest and energy development on the wintering grounds may affect the amount of suitable habitat for Golden Eagles in eastern North America.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology