An assessment of food habits, prey availability, and nesting success of golden eagles within the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan Area

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Abstract

Within the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan area, which encompasses California’s Mojave Desert, development and operation of renewable energy facilities has the potential to impact golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) populations through loss of habitat and prey base. Developing an effective conservation strategy that aims to mitigate for such operations is necessary to lessen these impacts; however, this requires site-specific knowledge of how golden eagle productivity is influenced by variability in prey abundance. In this study, researchers studied the food habits, prey availability, and nesting success of golden eagles in the conservation plan area over two seasons (2014 and 2015). In addition, as part of a collaborative research effort funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the same research was conducted within the adjoining Mojave Desert ecoregion of southern Nevada; these research results are presented as well. To examine prey availability, researchers conducted nocturnal spotlight surveys along 140 fivekilometer transects. Diet selection was determined using motion-activated trail cameras and by collecting prey remains at 20 active nests. Nesting success was determined by conducting occupancy and reproductive assessment surveys within 50 historic breeding areas and evaluating camera data collected at active nests. Preliminary results indicate high spatial variability in prey species abundance and selection. Black-tailed jackrabbits (Lepus californicus) represented over half the available prey, as well as nearly half the prey species identified by nest cameras. Overall, nesting success was 47 percent. Productivity was 0.67 young per occupied breeding area, and mean brood size was 1.4 young per successful nest. No evidence was found indicating that camera installation caused nest failures or influenced eagle behavior for any sites. Results from this project are incorporated into a spatial demographic model linking prey availability and abundance to golden eagle productivity across a changing Mojave Desert landscape.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Other Report
Title An assessment of food habits, prey availability, and nesting success of golden eagles within the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan Area
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher California Energy Commission
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description xi, 57 p.
Country United States
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