In late July, Bob Anderson turned off the live-streaming video that allowed the world to witness a pair of eagle’s nurse three eggs into healthy eaglets. The web site was visited more than 205 million times as viewers watched the raptors mature and finally leave the nest on June 16th. But nest cam fans and even Bob Anderson, a raptor specialist, did not know the eventual destination of these young eaglets.
Bob Anderson, Raptor Resource Center: “Everybody asks me, “What happened to the babies from last year?” That’s a question that I’ve heard since we’ve been filming at this nest and we can’t answer it. So by putting a satellite transmitter on one of the babies this year, we’ll be able to follow it for years and years and years, get gps coordinates, and we’ll learn. We’ll find out where these babies roam until they reach adulthood and eventually establish their own nest site.”
To achieve his goal of fitting one of the eaglets with a GPS transmitter, Anderson began leaving fish out for the trio of young eagles. According to Anderson, all three were practically eating right out of his hand, but on July 11th when he attempted to trap one of the birds, they became apprehensive and wary of the bait.
The following day, Anderson returned with a second trap known as a pandam. The pandam, which works by snaring the foot of the bird, was easier to hide making it less conspicuous than the bow net. By mid-day however the eagles were still not showing much interest in the fish used as bait to lure them to the traps.
Just as Anderson was about to call it a day, two of the young eagles swooped in for a closer look.
Anderson, Raptor Resource Center: “ It was a huge relief off my shoulders when I was able to grab that leg of that bird, because I knew that once I got a hold of that leg, I knew we were home free. I knew we were going to get a transmitter on it. So, I immediately became elated.”
Once captured, the eagle was identified as a female and tagged with an identification band before the satellite transmitter was fitted. Feathers will eventually hide the custom harness, made of Teflon ribbon. The transmitter, capable of tracking the eagle anywhere in the world, is solar powered and weighs 55 grams. Since 1998, Brett Mandernack has fitted 17 eagles with gps satellite transmitters. All of those eagles however nested in Canada and migrated south.
Brett Mandernack, Eagle Valley Nature Preserve: “This is a little different from what I’ve been doing. These are birds that have been born and raised here. So, it will be interesting to see what movements they show. Where these young of the year go in that first year? We don’t really know.”
The longest functioning eagle transmitter lasted 7 years and this version does not hinder the bird in flight. While it will provide an opportunity for casual viewers to track one of the Decorah eagles now that it has left the nest, it will also provide unprecedented scientific data for ornithologists.
Bob Anderson, Raptor Resource Project: “The parents don’t migrate, they stay here year round. Bud do the babies migrate? We don’t know but we’ll find out. We’re going to answer that question. We’re actually going to learn a little science here and we’re really excited about that.
The high-tech eagle is now referred to as D-1 for Decorah First Satellite. You can keep track of D-1 by going to raptorresource.org. First click on “What’s New” then on “Where is D-1?”