Golden Eagle Athena returns to Bernheim after 1700 mile Fall Migration

By Andrew Berry

Map of Athena’s migration to Bernheim

Bernheim is pleased to announce that after a long migration that began on October 19, 2023, Athena, the female golden eagle, has finally made her way back to Kentucky. This year, Athena took 39 days to complete the journey of over 1700 miles, traveling through several areas not visited in previous years for Bernheim’s tracked eagles. She arrived in Bernheim on November 27, 2023, and her behavior since then suggests she has settled into this large, protected forest habitat for the winter.

Athena’s track took her west of Lake Superior through Minnesota, where she followed a major migratory route for birds as she traveled along the north shore of Lake Superior. After rounding the lake at Duluth, Minnesota, she headed towards the Driftless Area of Wisconsin. She took five days during November 13-18 for resting and hunting in the Kickapoo Valley Reserve. This rugged area has been a regular stopover for migrating golden eagles, possibly allowing them to recharge before the long journey across the midwestern agricultural lands where stopovers and feeding options are limited.

Map of Athena’s migration to Bernheim; passing through Owensboro, KY

On November 21, she came within 2 miles of the Mississippi River in northern Illinois at French Bluff Natural Area. From here, she continued her travels over 400 miles of midwestern agricultural lands, moving further west than usual and barely crossing into Indiana. Finally, on November 24, she crossed the Wabash River and flew over Evansville, Indiana, before reaching the Ohio River on November 25. We were excited to see her route heading directly over Owensboro, KY. This is the first time we have seen her visit Kentucky’s fourth largest city, and from there, she turned directly east.

It took two days from Owensboro to arrive in Bernheim, soaring at speeds over 50 mph as she passed over Fort Knox. Her route from here was direct as she traveled across Knobs State Forest and into Bernheim. We will continue to track her movements as we anxiously wait to see if her mate or possibly juvenile offspring will join her on the winter territory.

Now in our 15th year of golden eagle monitoring at Bernheim, this project continues to add valuable information and insight into the behavior of these magnificent birds. A special thanks to Beckham Bird Club, Cellular Tracking Technologies, Conservation Science Global Inc., Parks Canada, and all the supporters of Birds of Bernheim that make the golden eagle project possible.

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