[Bristol-Birds] Golden Eagle camera trapping effort, winter 2011-12

  • From: Scott Somershoe <Scott.Somershoe@xxxxxx>
  • To: TN-Birds <tn-bird@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, "Birds, Bristol" <bristol-birds@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 18 Apr 2012 16:34:43 +0000

As many of you know, TWRA, TNC, and volunteers participated in a project using 
trail cameras and deer carcasses to document Golden Eagles this past winter 
(primarily Jan-Mar 2012).  The purpose of this project, which was conducted at 
over 140 sites from Maine to Alabama and coordinated through West Virginia 
University, is to help gather information about the size of the population of 
eastern Golden Eagles wintering in the Appalachian Mountains (among other 

As was previously reported by Wallace Coffey, in winter 2010-2011 TNC 
coordinated with volunteers some camera trapping efforts in Shady Valley, 
Johnson Co.  and captured one Golden Eagle on camera.  In winter 2011-12, TWRA, 
TNC, and volunteers expanded this effort and operated a total of 15 different 
camera trapping sites across 7 eastern Tennessee counties.  Some of these sites 
were more or less in the same vicinity but moved from one clearing in the 
forest to the next.  Most sites were run for about 2 weeks and then moved to 
another location.

Golden Eagles were documented at 5 different locations.  Golden Eagles were 
caught on film in Unicoi, Carter, Campbell, Monroe, and Johnson counties.  One 
site in Monroe Co. had 2 Golden Eagles at the carcass at one time.  All other 
detections were of single Golden Eagles.

Although all the folks that did all the hard work went through the photos and 
also documented other species feeding on the carcasses, I have gone through 
some of the images to see what other things of interest I could find and to see 
some of the images they captured.  I found a fascinating sequence of two adult 
red-tailed hawks that appear to be in a fierce battle.  Wings were spread, 
feathers on their heads were up, talons out, at one point one bird was standing 
on the other bird that was lying on its back in a very vulnerable position, and 
then there was one lone bird looking victorious, and then it was back feeding.

Also of note is a pair of Common Ravens on one site in southwestern Campbell 
County on 27 Jan 2012 and two Common Ravens that visited a site in northwestern 
Campbell Co. on 3, 5, and 6 Feb 2012.  In Carter Co., one site had 9-15+ Common 
Ravens visiting a carcass over a week.

I hope to get a web page created on the Tennessee’s Watchable Wildlife web site 
(tnwatchablewildlife.org) so we can post some of the interesting photos.

We plan to continue this effort in the future and we may be using some of the 
same trapping sites, hence we are not disclosing specific locations of the 
study sites.  In addition, some of the sites were on private property.

The project was quite a success with Golden Eagles detected on 5 of 10 
locations (if you cluster a couple trapping sites that were fairly close to one 
another) and in 5 of 7 counties.  It appears that Golden Eagles are probably 
more common than we think.  These birds are using heavily wooded areas and 
sitting along the edge of small clearings for significant amounts of time (like 
what Rob Biller and others have found at Hampton Creek Cove), hence the 
majority of birds are probably going undetected.

Scott Somershoe

State Ornithologist
Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
P.O. Box 40747
Nashville, TN 37204
615-781-6653 (office)
615-781-6654 (fax)

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