Avian ecologists are concerned that a warming, drying climate may negatively impact the population of golden eagles in the Southwest. In order to trap, track and monitor their behavior, researcher Tom Koronkiewicz with SWCA Environmental Consultants is leaving deer and elk carcasses near nesting sites north of Flagstaff.
“We actually are baiting sites within breeding territories in an effort to supplementally feed females to see if we can increase their reproduction. All of that work is done in the dark of night. We don’t want the eagles to see us. So this time of year myself and our eagle biologists, we keep very odd hours,” he says.
Researchers are also repelling down cliff sites to reach the nests and test for parasites that could kill eaglets. Koronkiewicz believes northern Arizona’s mild winters may increase the number of bugs that are harmful to the raptors.
“There are certain arthropods—like tics and mites, the mites similar to our bed bugs, that inhabit these nests and the nests are used by breeding adults, these ecto-parasites become alive again. There’s essentially a meal, a blood meal, when the nestlings hatch, these ecto-parasites are very good at detecting the nestlings, attaching themselves to get a blood meal to make more ecto-parasites,” he says.
Koronkiewicz hopes his research will lead to discoveries that will boost the numbers of golden eagles and improve their chances for survival.