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Concept: Eagle


We describe eight, mostly complete white-tailed eagle (Haliaëtus [Haliaeetus] albicilla) talons from the Krapina Neandertal site in present-day Croatia, dating to approximately 130 kyrs ago. Four talons bear multiple, edge-smoothed cut marks; eight show polishing facets and/or abrasion. Three of the largest talons have small notches at roughly the same place along the plantar surface, interrupting the proximal margin of the talon blade. These features suggest they were part of a jewelry assemblage, — the manipulations a consequence of mounting the talons in a necklace or bracelet. An associated phalanx articulates with one of the talons and has numerous cut marks, some of which are smoothed. These white-tailed eagle bones, discovered more than 100 years ago, all derive from a single level at Krapina and represent more talons than found in the entire European Mousterian period. Presence of eight talons indicates that the Krapina Neandertals acquired and curated eagle talons for some kind of symbolic purpose. Some have argued that Neandertals lacked symbolic ability or copied this behavior from modern humans. These remains clearly show that the Krapina Neandertals made jewelry well before the appearance of modern humans in Europe, extending ornament production and symbolic activity early into the European Mousterian.

Concepts: Human, Neanderthal, White-tailed Eagle, Bald Eagle, Eagle, Eagles, Sea eagle, Necklace


Old World vultures are likely polyphyletic, representing two subfamilies, the Aegypiinae and Gypaetinae, and some genera of the latter may be of independent origin. Evidence concerning the origin, as well as the timing of the divergence of each subfamily and even genera of the Gypaetinae has been elusive.

Concepts: New World vulture, Old World vulture, Eagle, Accipitriformes, Accipitridae


Proactive conservation planning for species requires the identification of important spatial attributes across ecologically relevant scales in a model-based framework. However, it is often difficult to develop predictive models, as the explanatory data required for model development across regional management scales is rarely available. Golden eagles are a large-ranging predator of conservation concern in the United States that may be negatively affected by wind energy development. Thus, identifying landscapes least likely to pose conflict between eagles and wind development via shared space prior to development will be critical for conserving populations in the face of imposing development. We used publically available data on golden eagle nests to generate predictive models of golden eagle nesting sites in Wyoming, USA, using a suite of environmental and anthropogenic variables. By overlaying predictive models of golden eagle nesting habitat with wind energy resource maps, we highlight areas of potential conflict among eagle nesting habitat and wind development. However, our results suggest that wind potential and the relative probability of golden eagle nesting are not necessarily spatially correlated. Indeed, the majority of our sample frame includes areas with disparate predictions between suitable nesting habitat and potential for developing wind energy resources. Map predictions cannot replace on-the-ground monitoring for potential risk of wind turbines on wildlife populations, though they provide industry and managers a useful framework to first assess potential development.

Concepts: Wind power, Bald Eagle, World energy resources and consumption, Wind turbine, Eagle, Golden Eagle, Eagles, Coat of arms of Mexico


Second generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) are commonly used for rodent pest control in Norway resulting in the potential exposure of non-target raptor species. In this study the occurrence of flocoumafen, difethialone, difenacoum, bromadiolone and brodifacoum was determined in the livers of five species of raptors found dead in Norway between 2009 and 2011. The SGARs brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difenacoum and flocoumafen were detected in golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) and eagle owl (Bubo bubo) livers at a total SGAR concentration of between 11 and 255ng/g in approximately 70% of the golden eagles and 50% of the eagle owls examined in this study. In the absence of specific golden eagle and eagle owl toxicity thresholds for SGARs, a level of >100ng/g was used as a potential lethal range, accepting that poisoning may occur below this level. Thirty percent (7/24) of the golden eagle and eagle owl livers contained total SGAR residue levels above this threshold. Further estimation of the potential mortality impact on the sampled raptor populations was not possible.

Concepts: Bald Eagle, Eagle, Golden Eagle, Aquila, Eagles, Rodenticide, Coat of arms of Mexico, National symbols of Mexico


Skin defects are a frequent problem in avian clinical practice. They require rapid and effective therapy due to the absence of available skin around the skin defects and desiccation of the surrounding tissue. Within the period of one year, between March 2010 and April 2011, several specimens of eastern imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca) were treated at the Clinic of Exotic and Free-Living Animals of the University of Veterinary Medicine and Pharmacy in Košice. Three of them (cases 1, 2 and 3) had damaged skin on their limbs. The skin defects presented in these patients required surgical treatment by a vascularised skin flap. Acceptance of the skin flap on the entire recipient site was seen in all three patients. Complete healing, as well as functioning of the damaged sites were observed within two months from the surgery. Using surgical treatment in case of extensive skin damages, as well as skin damages in hardly accessible locations, helps to prevent a number of complications associated with the management of the treatment of open wounds. The given method appears suitable also due to a better cosmetic effect and lower degree of stress to the patients.

Concepts: Medicine, Skin, Eagle, Aquila, Eagles, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Spanish Imperial Eagle


Turbulent atmospheric conditions represent a challenge to stable flight in soaring birds, which are often seen to drop their wings in a transient motion that we call a tuck. Here, we investigate the mechanics, occurrence and causation of wing tucking in a captive steppe eagle Aquila nipalensis, using ground-based video and onboard inertial instrumentation. Statistical analysis of 2594 tucks, identified automatically from 45 flights, reveals that wing tucks occur more frequently under conditions of higher atmospheric turbulence. Furthermore, wing tucks are usually preceded by transient increases in airspeed, load factor and pitch rate, consistent with the bird encountering a headwind gust. The tuck itself immediately follows a rapid drop in angle of attack, caused by a downdraft or nose-down pitch motion, which produces a rapid drop in load factor. Positive aerodynamic loading acts to elevate the wings, and the resulting aerodynamic moment must therefore be balanced in soaring by an opposing musculoskeletal moment. Wing tucking presumably occurs when the reduction in the aerodynamic moment caused by a drop in load factor is not met by an equivalent reduction in the applied musculoskeletal moment. We conclude that wing tucks represent a gust response precipitated by a transient drop in aerodynamic loading.

Concepts: Fluid dynamics, Aerodynamics, Turbulence, Wing, Flying and gliding animals, Eagle, Aquila, Steppe Eagle


Understanding the ranging behaviours of species can be helpful in effective conservation planning. However, for many species that are rare, occur at low densities, or occupy challenging environments, this information is often lacking. The Martial Eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus) is a low density apex predator declining in both non-protected and protected areas in southern Africa, and little is known about its ranging behaviour. We use GPS tags fitted to Martial Eagles (n = 8) in Kruger National Park (KNP), South Africa to describe their ranging behaviour and habitat preference. This represents the first time that such movements have been quantified in adult Martial Eagles. Territorial eagles (n = 6) held home ranges averaging ca. 108 km2. Home range estimates were similar to expectations based on inter-nest distances, and these large home range sizes could constrain the carrying capacity of even the largest conservation areas. Two tagged individuals classed as adults on plumage apparently did not hold a territory, and accordingly ranged more widely (ca. 44,000 km2), and beyond KNP boundaries as floaters. Another two territorial individuals abandoned their territories and joined the ‘floater’ population, and so ranged widely after leaving their territories. These unexpected movements after territory abandonment could indicate underlying environmental degradation. Relatively high mortality of these wide-ranging ‘floaters’ due to anthropogenic causes (three of four) raises further concerns for the species' persistence. Habitat preference models suggested Martial Eagles used areas preferentially that were closer to rivers, had higher tree cover, and were classed as dense bush rather than open bush or grassland. These results can be used by conservation managers to help guide actions to preserve breeding Martial Eagles at an appropriate spatial scale.

Concepts: South Africa, Lion, Biological interaction, Eagle, Territory, Eagles, Blue Wildebeest, Martial Eagle


Information on movement ecology is key in understanding the drivers and limitations of life history traits and has a potential role in indicating environmental change. Currently we have a limited understanding of the parameters of movement of territory-bound raptors, which are sensitive to environmental change. In this study we used GPS tracking technology to obtain spatially (within 3 m) and temporally (c. 3 mins) high-resolution movement data on a small sample of Verreaux’s eagle Aquila verreauxii during the pre-laying period (n = 4) with one additional example during the chick rearing period. We present GPS-derived home range estimates for this species and we examine temporal (timing, duration, frequency and speed) and spatial (total path length and maximum distance from nest) patterns of trips away from the nest. For eagles tagged in the agriculturally developed Sandveld region (n = 3), which is made up of a mosaic of land use types, we also undertook a habitat selection analysis. Home ranges were small and largely mutually exclusive. Trip activity was centred around midday, which is likely to be related to lift availability. Our habitat selection analysis found that eagles selected for near-natural and degraded habitat over natural or completely modified areas, suggesting that these eagles may have benefitted from some of the agricultural development in this region. Although our sample sizes are small, the resolution of our tracking data was essential in deriving this data over a relatively short time period and paves the way for future research.

Concepts: Time, Sample size, Wavelength, Eagle, Aquila, Eagles, Verreaux's Eagle


Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are persistent and toxic flame-retardant chemicals widespread in the Great Lakes ecosystem. These chemicals are now being regulated and phased-out of the region; therefore it remains important to understand the extent of contamination in order to track the efficacy of recent actions. Here, Σ4PBDE congeners (PBDE-47, 99, 100, 153;wetweight basis unless indicated)were determined in liver tissues from Wisconsin river otters (Lontra canadensis; n = 35; 2009-2010) and Michigan bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus; n = 33; 2009-2011). In otters, Σ4PBDE ranged from0.5 to 72.9 ng/g, with a mean (±SD) and median (25th-75th percentile inter-quartile range) of 16.3 ± 16.4 ng/g and 11.3 (5.6-18.9) ng/g, respectively. The mean lipid-adjusted Σ4PBDE was 1377 ± 1485 ng/g. In eagles, Σ4PBDE ranged from 0 to 1,538.8 ng/g, with a mean and median of 74.3 ± 266.7 ng/g and 21.2 (5.7-28.9) ng/g, respectively. The mean lipid-adjusted Σ4PBDE was 5274.5 ± 19,896.1 ng/g. In both species, PBDE-47 accounted for >50% of the Σ4PBDE, followed by PBDE-99 and PBDE-100 (each ~17-19% of the total). The PBDE levels reported here in otters are similar to mammalian wildlife elsewhere, though the levels in eagles are among the highest worldwide across studied birds. The findings indicate that apex Great Lakes wildlife remain exposed to appreciable levels of PBDEs and more work is needed to understand whether such exposures are associated with adverse health outcomes.

Concepts: Median, Polybrominated diphenyl ethers, White-tailed Eagle, Great Lakes, Bald Eagle, Wisconsin, Eagle, Eagles


Recreational ground squirrel shooting is a popular activity throughout the western United States and serves as a tool for managing ground squirrel populations in agricultural regions. Belding’s ground squirrels (Spermophilus beldingi) are routinely shot in California, Nevada, and Oregon across habitats that overlap with breeding avian scavengers. Ground squirrels shot with lead (Pb)-based bullets may pose a risk to avian scavengers if they consume carcasses containing Pb fragments. To assess the potential risk to breeding avian scavengers we developed a model to estimate the number, mass, and distribution of Pb fragments in shot ground squirrels using radiographic images. Eighty percent of shot carcasses contained detectible Pb fragments with an average of 38.6 mg of Pb fragments. Seven percent of all carcasses contained Pb fragment masses exceeding a lethal dose for a model raptor nestling (e.g. American kestrel Falco sparverius). Bullet type did not influence the number of fragments in shot ground squirrels, but did influence the mass of fragments retained. Belding’s ground squirrels shot with .17 Super Mag and unknown ammunition types contained over 28 and 17 times more mass of Pb fragments than those shot with .22 solid and .22 hollow point bullets, respectively. Ground squirrel body mass was positively correlated with both the number and mass of Pb fragments in carcasses, increasing on average by 76% and 56% respectively across the range of carcass masses. Although the mass of Pb retained in ground squirrel carcasses was small relative to the original bullet mass, avian scavenger nestlings that frequently consume shot ground squirrels may be at risk for Pb-induced effects (e.g., physiology, growth, or survival). Using modeling efforts we found that if nestling golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos), red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis), and Swainson’s hawks (B. swainsoni) consumed shot ground squirrels proportionately to the nestling’s mass, energy needs, and diet, 100% of the nestling period would exceed a 50% reduction in delta-aminolevulinic acid dehydratase production threshold, the last 13-27% of the nestling stage would exceed a reduced growth rate threshold, but no nestlings would be expected to exceed a level of Pb ingestion that would be lethal.

Concepts: Falconry, Squirrel, Ammunition, Prairie dog, Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Golden Eagle, Buteo