By Dessi Sieburth

Image1 Golden-Eagle-over-Denali-National-Park IMG 8912 WEB

A Golden Eagle soars over the mountains of Denali National Park | Photo by Dessi Sieburth

I went on a birding trip to Alaska from July 4th to July 14th, 2015. I wanted to see species of birds which are special to Alaska and I also wanted to learn more about the Golden Eagle in Denali National Park. Golden Eagles are large and powerful raptors. Denali National Park is special because it is home to the highest density of nesting Golden Eagles in North America. Denali NP and Preserve is located in interior Alaska. It has the highest mountain in North America and it has a rich diversity of bird habitats. The habitat ranges from low meadows to alpine fields. The landscape was shaped by glaciers and erosion. Much of the mountainous regions of the Alaska Range is above the tree line and has vast open landscapes. This is perfect habitat for the Golden Eagles as they hunt in short vegetation with little tree cover, so they can see their prey easily. Golden Eagles mainly nest on cliffs and by April the female lays 1-3 eggs. Most young hatch by June and leave the nest after 70 days. Carol McIntyre is a national park service biologist in Denali and studies the reproductive success of the Golden Eagles. She uses a small helicopter to study the eagles, as getting to the nest sites is difficult. I met with Carol McIntyre and her colleague, Scott Weidensaul, to talk about Golden Eagles and threats that they face. I also was interested in what we can do to help the eagles.

Golden Eagle over Denali National Park

A Golden Eagle soars over the mountains of Denali National Park | Photo by Kent Miller

Following is the interview with Carol McIntyre

Q: Are Golden Eagles increasing, declining, or stable in Denali NP?

A: We don’t know in Denali National Park, but reproductive success is declining in the rest of the world.

Q: What is the main source of food for the Golden Eagle in Denali NP?
A: Food includes Snowshoe Hare, Willow Ptarmigan, and Arctic Ground Squirrel

Willow Ptarmigian

The Willow Ptarmigan is one of the Golden Eagle's main source of food | Photo by Dessi Sieburth

Q: What are the major threats to Golden Eagles in Denali?
A: There aren’t many threats to the eagles in Denali itself because the habitat is protected, but most Golden Eagles are migratory and they face threats outside of Denali. Those threats include habitat loss, wind turbines and electrical power lines.

Q: What can we do to help the Golden Eagle?
A: We can spread awareness of the Golden Eagle. We need to keep educating the public about these beautiful birds that people are willing to protect them and their habitat.

Q: What are the effects of climate change on the Golden Eagle?
A: Climate change could change vegetation patterns which may affect the Golden eagles prey. The tree line is moving up in the mountains due to warmer temperatures. This could have an impact on the Golden Eagles. They need open spaces to hunt as they rely on their eyesight to find food.

Q: Are you going to continue your Golden Eagle studies?
A: I will continue to study nesting sites, reproductive success, identifying more threats they face.

Thanks to Pasadena Audubon Society and Los Angeles Audubon Society for supporting my trip to Alaska.


Published Western Tanager Vol. 82 No. 1 Sep/Oct 2015

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