We are pleased to announce that the pair of golden eagles that Bernheim tracks have checked in and have made it south into the United States. We received the last transmissions of GPS locations in April, which showed the eagles had made it north to Churchill, Manitoba on their summer territory.
Athena, the female golden eagle, began her southern migration from northern Manitoba on October 9. Cold temperatures of 23˚ F and strong winds pushed her at speeds of over 50 mph at times, with sustained flight speeds ~ 30 mph as she skimmed the Hudson Bay passing over York Factory before headed inland across Ontario. Her journey across the wilderness of Ontario took another 20 days, with her crossing at Mackinac Straits into Michigan on October 29.
It was exciting to see Athena use two protected areas on Lake Superior during her migration. She visited Pukaskwa National Park, one of the most remote coastlines in the Great Lakes region. The next day she traveled over 11 miles over water on Lake Superior to Michipicoten Island. Michipicoten Island is a wilderness island that was recently in the news for having its remaining woodland caribou and wolves relocated in 2019 due to insufficient population numbers. The golden eagle flew about 15 miles across the interior of the island before crossing back to the mainland. This was the first time during this project we’ve seen one of the golden eagles cross onto islands on the Great Lakes.
The male golden eagle, Harper, again chose to follow his old route heading south towards Minnesota. He departed the summer territory on October 14 and checked in for the first time after crossing into the United States near Voyageurs National Park. He has traveled the Mississippi Flyway off the western tip of Lake Superior at Duluth, MN, and is now located 350 miles from his mate Athena in Michigan. He has been traveling fast, with speeds topping out over 50 mph as cold arctic winds push golden eagles and many other migratory birds south into the United States.
We continue to see this breeding pair of golden eagles migrate separately, now documented over 4 migrations (2019 spring-fall, 2020 spring-fall) traveling on separate paths. The data from summer 2020 stored up on the eagles solar GPS transmitters, and has now just finished downloading as they began encountering cellular towers. It will be carefully analyzed over the coming weeks, contributing greatly to our understanding of behavior for a breeding pair of golden eagles on summer range. Stay tuned during the next few months as we continue to learn and tell the story of how these golden eagles survive in large, protected areas like Bernheim.