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Bernheim Forest’s golden eagle Athena is back. See her 1,700-mile flight, which took her over many new places

By Raven Warren

Source: WHAS 11 

December 14, 2023

By Joseph Garcia

It took 39 days for Athena to make her way back home and researchers are anxiously waiting to learn if she brought family home for the holidays.

Bernheim Forest’s golden eagle Athena is back. See her 1,700-mile flight, which took her over many new places

CLERMONT, Ky. — After a month-long flight from Canada, a golden eagle that has called Bernheim Forest home for several years has once again returned to Kentucky.

Researchers said Athena began migrating south on Oct. 19 and made it back to Bernheim on Nov. 27, where her behavior suggests she’ll once again stay for the winter.

She completed the 1,700-mile journey from Wapusk National Park in Canada in 39 days, officials said.

In early November, Bernheim officials said Athena may not be traveling home for the holidays alone. She hatched a new chick over the summer in Canada after meeting a new mate in February.

Bernheim is continuing to track her movements and behavior as they wait to learn if her partner or offspring arrived with her this winter.

Athena’s path took her west of Lake Superior in Michigan, which is a typical route for many other migratory birds heading south. But, this year Athena traveled through several new areas not visited by Bernheim’s tracked eagles in previous years.

In mid-November, she stopped for five days in the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, located in the Driftless Area of Wisconsin. The region is an important area for migratory birds to rest before they journey into the Midwest’s agricultural lands, which pose threats from poor habitat and expanding windfarms, Bernheim officials said.

Credit: Bernheim Forest
A map showing golden eagle Athena’s 1,700-mile migration route from Canada to Kentucky for the winter.

By Nov. 21, Athena was within miles of the Mississippi River in northern Illinois and soon traveled more than 400 miles south into Indiana. Three days later, the golden eagle crossed the Wabash River and flew over Evansville, Indiana before reaching the Ohio River on Nov. 25.

Researchers were excited because Athena’s flight path had her flying through Owensboro, Kentucky – the first time they have ever seen her visit Kentucky’s fourth-largest city.

After Owensboro, officials said it took her two days to travel east to Bernheim Forest. At times, her GPS tracker showed her flying at speeds over 50 mph as she passed near Fort Knox.

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