Spatial and temporal patterns in golden eagle diets in the western United States, with implications for conservation planning

Journal of Raptor Research
By: , and 



Detailed information on diets and predatory ecology of Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) is essential to prioritize prey species management and to develop landscape-specific conservation strategies, including mitigation of the effects of energy development across the western United States. We compiled published and unpublished data on Golden Eagle diets to (1) summarize available information on Golden Eagle diets in the western U.S., (2) compare diets among biogeographic provinces, and (3) discuss implications for conservation planning and future research. We analyzed 35 studies conducted during the breeding season at 45 locations from 1940–2015. Golden Eagle diet differed among western ecosystems. Lower dietary breadth was associated with desert and shrub-steppe ecosystems and higher breadth with mountain ranges and the Columbia Plateau. Correlations suggest that percentage of leporids in the diet is the factor driving overall diversity of prey and percentage of other prey groups in the diet of Golden Eagles. Leporids were the primary prey of breeding Golden Eagles in 78% of study areas, with sciurids reported as primary prey in 18% of study areas. During the nonbreeding season, Golden Eagles were most frequently recorded feeding on leporids and carrion. Golden Eagles can be described as both generalist and opportunistic predators; they can feed on a wide range of prey species but most frequently feed on abundant medium-sized prey species in a given habitat. Spatial variations in Golden Eagle diet likely reflect regional differences in prey community, whereas temporal trends likely reflect responses to long-term change in prey populations. Evidence suggests dietary shifts from traditional (leporid) prey can have adverse effects on Golden Eagle reproductive rates. Land management practices that support or restore shrub-steppe ecosystem diversity should benefit Golden Eagles. More information is needed on nonbreeding-season diet to determine what food resources, such as carrion, are important for overwinter survival.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Spatial and temporal patterns in golden eagle diets in the western United States, with implications for conservation planning
Series title Journal of Raptor Research
DOI 10.3356/JRR-16-38.1
Volume 51
Issue 3
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher The Raptor Research Foundation
Contributing office(s) Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center
Description 21 p.
First page 347
Last page 367
Country United States
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