The Nongame Wildlife Program along with Audubon Minnesota, The National Eagle Center, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources have begun a 3-year project to increase understanding of the biology and management needs golden eagles wintering along the Mississippi River. Nongame Wildlife has provided funding for radio tracking devices to be placed on golden eagles over the next three years.
Golden Eagles do not breed in Minnesota and Wisconsin and have not been considered regular users of the Mississippi River during the winter. In Minnesota, there have been occasional reports of golden eagles in spring, fall and winter from most counties.
Recent January surveys coordinated by the National Eagle Center revealed a population of about 60 golden eagles in the Minnesota and Wisconsin counties using the bluffs along the Mississippi River from LaCrosse, Wisconsin to Red Wing, Minnesota. These birds do not mix with the wintering and breeding bald eagles found in this area. The breeding origin of these wintering golden eagles is unknown, and we have no information about their migration routes and their habitat use and timing during the winter.
Golden eagle habitat use, preferred prey and home range during the winter is information that will be needed to ensure appropriate management and conservation action along the Mississippi River. The 3-year goals of this project are to:
- Better understand the numbers, distribution, and habits of wintering golden eagles along the Mississippi River.
- Identify the breeding origins and migratory routes of these birds and the timing of their use.
- Begin the process of developing appropriate conservation and management strategies for these birds.
- Inform and engage the public in carrying out these goals.