Long-Term Band Encounters of Rehabilitated North American Eagles
Between 1973 and 2020, 122 Golden Eagles and 115 Bald Eagles submitted to veterinary medical rehabilitation were banded and released upon recovery in three western states. Adults of both species comprised the most commonly banded age class of rehabilitated (rehab) eagles. Bald Eagles admitted for toxins spent less time in rehabilitation than for those admitted for collision trauma. Encounter (band read for any reason) data from banded eagles provided by the Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL) were analyzed and fitted to appropriate functions in an attempt to describe underlying distributions inherent in the data. Up to March 2020, 28 (12.2%) rehab eagles had been encountered. Encounter rate was 7.4% for rehab Golden Eagles and 16.5% for rehab Bald Eagles, slightly different than those reported by BBL overall (8.0%, 12.2%, respectively). All Golden Eagles were recovered (encountered dead) but 26.3% of Bald Eagles were encountered alive. Days in rehabilitation were not different between species or between Bald Eagles encountered dead or alive. Sex ratio of encountered eagles was not different from ratio of banded eagles of either species. Median time between release and encounter for Golden Eagles was 1.75 yr and 1.42 yr for Bald Eagles. Median distance from banding to encounter site for Golden Eagles was 7.5 km and 115.7 km for Bald Eagles. Number of encounters per year was not related to number of rehab eagles banded that year or for any year previous. Encounters of live Bald Eagles > 30 yr old are discussed. Rehab Golden Eagles may have originated predominantly from western Canada and Alaska while Bald Eagles may have been a mix of a local, non-latitudinal migratory population and seasonal latitudinal migrants. Small sample sizes and lack of precise encounter data prevents utility of rehab eagle encounters to contribute to demographic vital rate estimates needed for effective management of either species. Banding rehab eagles may not justify the manpower investment by BBL required to manage data from banders that band rehab eagles exclusively. Falconry training may be warranted to increase survival potential of rehab Golden Eagles. If recent trends continue, increased rehabilitation effort focused on Golden Eagles may be warranted.