Home Lunchtime Expedition: YNP Golden Eagle Nesting Ecology Program


Buffalo Bill Center of the West
Buffalo Bill Center of the West


Buffalo Bill Center of the West
BBCW | 720 Sheridan Ave, Cody, Wyoming


Jun 01 2023


12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Lunchtime Expedition: YNP Golden Eagle Nesting Ecology Program

A free Lunchtime Expedition lecture, “Yellowstone National Park Golden Eagle Nesting Ecology Program,” presented by David Haines.

The in-person talk takes place in the Center’s Coe Auditorium. If you prefer to join us online, you may register in advance via Zoom webinar:

Golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) are a North American species of conservation concern throughout their range. Prior to 2011, no data regarding local population size, reproduction, or food habits was available for the species in Yellowstone National Park (YNP). With range-wide conservation concerns for the species and the lack of local knowledge in YNP, golden eagles were included in the Yellowstone Raptor Initiative (YRI), a five-year program (2011–2015) established to collect baseline demographic data on previously overlooked raptor species in YNP. For golden eagles, monitoring occupancy and reproductive rates annually were the primary objective. A secondary objective was to better understand breeding season food habits through the collection of prey remains and the use of motion triggered cameras at the nest.

Golden eagle monitoring has continued beyond the initial five-year scope of work and since the start of the YRI, we have identified a relatively dense local population across the northern range of YNP. However, average reproductive rates over the past 12 years have been low, stimulating questions as to what environmental factors limit reproductive success. Hypotheses include extreme weather, variation in prey availability, and the recovery of large carnivores within YNP. To date, our research has evaluated temporal and spatial components of golden eagle habitat that could explain reproductive output of eagles in YNP’s northern range. Overall, the research has advanced our understanding of the potential drivers of low reproductive rates. However, given the consequences of low reproductive success in YNP, research regarding survival rates and other life-history stages is needed to better understand the status of this local population.

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