Approximately 20% of the 1,200 nests monitored by the Audubon Florida EagleWatch Program are built on man-made structures, such as cell towers or power line transmission towers. EagleWatch studies how these nest decisions impact nesting success and nest site choice through the analysis of monitoring data as well as the Auxiliary Banding Study, which began in 2017. The goal of the Auxiliary Banding Study is to determine if the type of nest structure a chick hatches in influences its future nest site choice once it reaches maturity and begins nesting.
All juvenile eagles treated and released by the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey’s Raptor Trauma Clinic are tagged with a colored leg band with an easy-to-read, unique alphanumeric code before release back into the wild. The color of the band indicates the type of nest where the chick hatched: green bands for chicks that hatched in natural nests and black bands for chicks that hatched in nests on man-made structures.
The Auxiliary Banding Study is a multi-year project, with banded birds added to the research initiative each successive nesting season. Since inception in 2017, the study has banded and released 105 juvenile eagles.
Auxiliary band release and resight locations are mapped to visualize movement of the eagles. To date, EagleWatch has received 55 band resight reports, with 14 resights coming from out of state as the juveniles migrate north over the summer.
The initial cohort of fledglings banded in 2017 reached sexual maturity during the 2023 nesting season. We were eager to see if one of our banded birds would be resighted at a nest. And we weren’t disappointed!
Volunteers who monitor a natural nest in a local park north of Tampa reported seeing banded eagle female K/05 defending the territory with a male, our first record of an aux-banded eagle occupying a nest territory!
K/05 was rescued as a prefledging from a natural nest on a golf course in Orlando in 2017 and released a month later. EagleWatch received reports of K/05 as a subadult in 2019 in the Tampa area and then at a nature preserve in Central Florida in 2021 before she returned to the Tampa area to claim a nesting territory. Click here to see an interactive map of her travels.
We look forward to receiving more reports of banded eagles nesting over the coming seasons. As we learn more about these nesting behaviors and eagle movements, we are working with the owners of these structures as well as state and federal agencies to modify policies and practices to better protect eagles now and into the future.
This article originally appeared in the 2022-23 EagleWatch Report.