Tracking the Decorah Eagles

Tracking the Decorah Eagles

By Mike Jacobs. CREATED Sep 20, 2011 - UPDATED: Sep 20, 2011

DECORAH, IOWA- They are the birds that captured the attention of the world thanks to one tiny web camera. Three eagles born back in April in Decorah, Iowa became the hottest internet sensation.

Now the eagles have grown up and left home but the Raptor Resource Project is taking hi-tech to new heights by monitoring where the eagles now go.

"The parents don't migrate.  They stay here year round.  But do the babies migrate?  We don't know.  We're going to find out.  We're going to answer that question.  We're actually going to learn a little bit of science here and we're excited about that," says Bob Anderson, Director of the Raptor Resource Project.

Anderson's job was to catch one of the young eagles and strap a GPS device to its back. During the mission, the eagles were so acclimated to humans, Anderson was able to walk right past them. His team hid a net in a pile of wood chips and left a dead fish for bait.

Before long the team was able to tag one of the eagles.

"It was a huge weight off my shoulder when I was able to grab that leg of that bird, because once I got a hold of that leg I knew we were home free.I knew we were going to get a transmitter on it, so I immediately became elated," recalls Anderson.

The team attached an ID band to the eagle's leg and then strapped a tiny GPS device to its back. The GPS has a solar panel that will provide power indefinitely.

"So by putting a satellite transmitter on the babies this year, we'll be able to follow it for years and years and years," Anderson explains. 

The device weighs just two ounces.  Anderson says it will not impede or harm the eagle in any way. The team has tracked the eagle for more than a month.

Their research shows the eagle spends a lot of time in far northwestern Wisconsin, near Spooner and Shell Lake. That is about 200 miles from its nest in Decorah.

"With GPS coordinates we'll learn where these babies roam until they reach adulthood and eventually establish their own nest site," explains Anderson.