Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos
Version: 2.0 — Published September 17, 2020
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Priorities for Future Research
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Priorities for Future Research
This species account illustrates the remarkable number of studies conducted on Golden Eagles and the depth of the knowledge about the species. However, data gaps still limit the ability to understand Golden Eagle ecology and to make appropriate management decisions. These knowledge gaps fall into several categories.
First, despite extensive research activity, there is substantial uncertainty about how Golden Eagle responds to factors such as climate change, urbanization, and the associated increase in human activity, energy development, wildfires, and other anthropogenic influences (604, 582, 743, 628). Many of these changes are occurring in the Golden Eagle range and may affect distribution patterns, nesting, productivity and mortality rates (474, 582, 682, 177, 744; see Conservation and Management: Effects of Human Activity: Degradation or Improvement of Habitat). Clarifying these areas of uncertainty is therefore an important priority.
Second, in the contiguous continental United States, extensive effort has been devoted to aerial surveys to estimate trends in abundance (587, 588, 589). Continuation of these monitoring efforts is an important component of management for Golden Eagle conservation (622). However, these surveys exclude wide areas of the distribution of the Golden Eagle in North America, especially Alaska, Canada, and Mexico. Alaska and Canada in particular may hold as many nesting pairs of eagles as does the rest of the United States. No similar work has been done elsewhere in the global range of the Golden Eagle. As such, another priority is to identify ways to estimate demographic and ecological parameters for Golden Eagle and to monitor their populations, range-wide.
Finally, there is a great deal that we do not know about the biology of the Golden Eagle. Some noteworthy areas of uncertainty include:
- factors that influence population trends, especially the role of anthropogenic mortality and in identifying compensatory vs. additive mortality
- other aspects of demography, especially spatial and temporal variation in parameters such as age-specific survival and reproductive rates, and rates associated with movement (emigration, immigration, natal dispersal, breeding dispersal, age structure)
- population-level effects of environmental contaminants and habitat alteration on nesting, migrating, and wintering grounds
- size of the floating segment of populations and how non-territorial and territorial birds interact
- genetic structure of populations
- degree to which there is migratory connectivity of eagle populations and at what scale connectivity should be measured for eagles
- winter ecology, particularly, interactions between migrants and residents on winter grounds, the composition of wintering populations (migrants vs. residents), and the geographic origin and distribution of migrants in wintering populations.