Sunday, March 13, 2016

Eagle Elder

We wrapped up the winter eagle trapping season last week with a pretty special capture. We had a good bit of success despite the fact that winter itself was extremely short, with good trapping weather (cold and/or snow) having ended by the first week of January. But whether there is weather or not Golden Eagles still have to eat, and carcasses are the mainstay in Central Oregon until marmots and ground squirrels come out of hibernation and birds and mammals start producing young.

At any rate, we caught a resident adult male, and found that he was already banded. So after taking some measurements, some pictures, and some blood (for a lead level study), we turned him loose.

As I filled out the Bird Banding Lab's band recovery form, I kept getting an error message; the band number I was entering was for a band that was deployed so long ago that it was unlikely to still be on a live bird. I don't have the full banding information yet, but the short version is that this male was banded as a nestling somewhere in our general area on June 6, 1996, almost 20 years ago!

Actually, the minimum age of this eagle (at time of our capture) was 19 years and 10 months. A check of the Bird Banding Lab's longevity records for this species shows our eagle to be the seventh oldest documented in the wild. He has a way to go yet to set the record, as a Utah Golden Eagle banded and subsequently encountered dead was a minimum of 31 years and 8 months old at death. Five of the six oldest birds were found dead, and the sixth--though released alive--was encountered only because it had run afoul of telephone or electric wires. So the eagle pictured below (with My son Nathan, his wife Nuka, and my granddaughter Celestine) is the oldest banded Golden Eagle to have been recaptured alive. Long may he yet live!

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