We studied nest use by Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) from 1966 to 2011 to assess nest reuse within territories, ascertain the length of time that elapses between uses of nests, and test the hypotheses that reproductive success and adult turnover influence nest switching. Golden Eagles used 454 nests in 66 territories and used individual nests 1 to 26 times during 45 continuous years of observation. Time between reuse ranged from 1 to 39 yr. Distances between nearest adjacent alternative nests within territories ranged between <1 and 1822 m, and distances between 90% of adjacent nests were <500 m. Of all nests used, 21% fell or disintegrated, and 31% were newly constructed during the study. Nest switching was not associated with the previous year's nesting success, but eagles tended to change nests after turnover of at least one member of the pair. Five of 42 nests used in 1971 and monitored continuously through 2011 were used only once and 21 were used >5 times. Two nests were unused for 21 and 27 yr after 1971 before being used every 1 to 3 yr thereafter. Eagles used 43% of the nests in series of consecutive years (range 3 to 20 consecutive nestings). Protecting unused nests for a proposed 10 yr after the last known use would not have protected 34% of all 300 nests that were reused during the study and 49% of 37 reused nests monitored consistently for 41 yr. The 102 nests that would not have received protection were in 56 of the 66 territories.
Additional publication details
Frequency of nest use by golden eagles in southwestern Idaho