ProjectHuman impacts on the ecology of the threatened eastern population of North American Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos)
Since the 17th century, anthropogenic activities caused the extinction of at least 131 bird species. At present, habitat destruction and climate change continue to be a threat to bird populations. The Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), one of the largest raptor species in North America, is particularly vulnerable to human activities. Several populations across its circumpolar distribution have decreased because of accidental trapping, illegal hunting, collisions with urban structures and lead poisoning. For instance, the Eastern North American population was significantly reduced during the 20th century and is now isolated in remote regions of Québec, Labrador and Ontario. Additionally, this small population is potentially genetically distinct from its western counterparts, which raises the need for conservation. Despite recent stability in the population, urban development and exploitation of natural resources in breeding areas and migration pathways represents a threat for the population. These raptors are particularly vulnerable to collision with wind turbines and power lines. Despite its concerning status, knowledge on the ecology of North American Golden Eagles is lacking which reduces chances of successful recovery and protection. Preeminent gaps in our knowledge of Golden Eagle ecology are in habitat selection, migratory movements and foraging behaviour. My research will take place in the Gaspé Peninsula and Ungava Bay, Québec, where the majority of the population breeds. My first objective is to characterize habitat used for nesting using high-resolution GPS loggers put on birds breeding in Québec (Gaspé Peninsula and Ungava Bay). Additionally, impacts of wind turbine development on habitat selection and behaviour will be evaluated. These results will provide collision risk assessments on breeding ground as well as information on habitat characteristics necessary for breeding. The second objective is to collect data on foraging behaviour (e.g., hunting behaviour, habitat use, etc.) and migratory movements. Using GPS loggers put on breeding birds (Ungava Bay), migratory pathways and foraging movements will be recorded. Furthermore, foraging habitat use will be evaluated using camera traps put nearby baited sites (e.g., caribou carrions) across a habitat gradient. These results will provide insights on energetic costs associated with different behaviour and habitats for foraging and migrating. Finally, the last objective will be to evaluate population size, mortality (anthropogenic and natural), reproductive success, immigration and emigration using data collected on the field and with citizen-science throughout the breeding distribution, including Labrador and Ontario. These results will allow to build a population model predicting trends in following decades and to establish conservation plans. In conservation, ecological knowledge is crucial and can significantly contribute to protection measures and recovery plans. Detrimental effects of habitat destruction and climate change on birds continue to increase and many species are subject to population decrease. Considered an “umbrella” species, management and protection of the habitat of the Golden Eagle benefit many other species. My research will provide novel information on raptor and Golden Eagle ecology, in hope to establish more efficient measures for conservation in Eastern North America. In conservation, ecological knowledge is crucial and can significantly contribute to protection measures and recovery plans. Detrimental effects of habitat destruction and climate change on birds continues to increase and many species are subject to population decrease. Considered an “umbrella” species, management and protection of the habitat of the Golden Eagle benefit many other species. My research will provide novel information on raptor and Golden Eagle ecology, in hope to establish more efficient measures for conservation in Eastern North America.
KeywordsMovement ecology, migration, Dynamiques des population/Population dynamics, foraging, reproduction, Ecologie comportementale/Behavioural ecology
Publications1- Dietary Niche Shifts of Multiple Marine Predators under Varying Prey Availability on the Northeast Newfoundland Coast
Gulka, Julia, Paloma C. Carvalho, Edward Jenkins, Kelsey Johnson, Laurie Maynard, Gail K. Davoren
2017 Frontiers in Marine Science