Tracking Bald Eagle KG09: 2015–2021

Bald Eagle KG09 PortraitBald Eagle #15-1922 [KG09] was an immature [2.5-year-old] male Bald Eagle admitted to the Center in August 2015 after he was found in King George County. The bird was diagnosed with lead toxicosis, and, after more than two months of treatment, the eagle was released at Caledon State Park, Virginia.

Amazingly, Center staff were able to track this eagle for more than five years, and the bird was even spotted by a private citizen in 2017. The eagle centered his travels around the Northern Neck of Virginia during the five years of tracking, until data indicated that the bird likely died in the spring of 2021.

2015

After release, KG09 flew south along the Rappahannock River for more than 65 miles, ending up at a landfill near the York River. Young eagles often scavenge at landfills before they establish hunting skills and territories of their own. The bird mostly remained within a five-mile radius of the landfill throughout the rest of the year and continued to explore the surrounding area.

Bald Eagle KG09 Route in 2015

2016

KG09 started the year with a big move, flying about 40 miles north along the Rappahannock River to Tappahannock, VA, and stayed within a 20-mile radius of this spot in January. On February 1st, he checked in at the Middle Peninsula Landfill in Gloucester County, Virginia. He traveled from landfill to landfill throughout the rest of the year, including the Charles City Landfill followed by the King and Queen County Landfill in February; in March, he returned to the Middle Peninsula Landfill. In April, the young eagle checked in at the Republic Services Recycling Center near Richmond, VA before traveling back to the York River in May. In August, this eagle continued landfill hopping -- first traveling to the landfill near Owl Trap, Virginia, and then lingering around a landfill near Dragonville, VA. 

Overall, throughout this year, this eagle tended to circulate between and around landfills and agricultural areas. When traveling, he followed the direction and curvature of creeks and streams. By November, a pattern began to emerge of this eagle patrolling what appears to be a claimed territory -- which may indicate that this eagle was beginning to reach sexual maturity.

Bald Eagle KG09 Route in 2016

2017

KG09 spent the first few months of this year patrolling familiar territory around Essex County, Virginia, and the Mattaponi River and making visits to the Dragonville landfill. His circular path encompasses about 30 miles of wetlands, agricultural areas, and tidal creeks. Toward the end of March, he began expanding his travels a bit farther north, exploring Mulberry and Paynes Island. Through August, KG09 followed a predictable pattern of behavior and continued to heavily visit the Dragonville landfill where he likely found a reliable source of food. In early September, his path deviated from his usual pattern, and the eagle traveled about 70 miles up the peninsula and crossed Ingram Bay. He lingered near the Virginia-Maryland border for a few days before returning to familiar territory. In November, a private citizen in Gloucester County spotted KG09 (confirmed with location and data from the transmitter) and was able to send us a photo! 

Bald Eagle KG09 photographed in the wild with tracker on backBald Eagle KG09 route in 2017

2018

At the beginning of 2018, KG09 expanded his explorations farther south to York River State Park. Throughout the early part of the year, the eagle took several trips, flying between 40 and 80 miles each time, but always returning to the Dragonville landfill. In mid-June, he began to deviate from this pattern, exploring farther to the northeast beyond his usual range around the King George landfill near Sealston, VA. He spent the next two months frequenting this landfill and making occasional small flights to explore the surrounding area. In late August and early September, KG09 returned to the Dragonville landfill and resumed patrolling his favored territory, making circles around the surrounding areas. On his flights away from the landfills, he frequented rural and agricultural areas. He ended the year at the Dragonville landfill.

Bald Eagle KG09 Route in 2018

2019

At the end of January, KG09 flew about 40 miles southeast to the Waste Management Middle Peninsula Landfill near Petsworth, VA before returning to the Dragonville landfill. In late February, he crossed the Rappahannock River several times and began to frequent a waste management facility in Gloucester County near Owl Trap. He began following a 30-mile circuit through Gloucester and King and Queen Counties, following the contours of Dragon Swamp freshwater stream that flows between the two counties. Starting in late April, KG09 remained within a 15-mile radius of the Owl Trap landfill for the rest of the year. He frequently flew over the landfill and made short visits to the nearby York River and agricultural areas, but always returned to the Owl Trap Landfill. His travel paths indicated that he prefers spending time in open and non-forested areas. 

Bald Eagle KG09 Route in 2019

2020

KG09 spent the entire year near the Owl Trap landfill, making frequent small flights over the landfill and patrolling the surrounding areas. He maintained this pattern of behavior through the hottest and coldest times of the year. He seemed to prefer the agricultural and forested areas over the inlets of the nearby York River. Owl Trap landfill is about 78 miles southeast of Caledon State Park where he was released in 2015. His farthest trip from the landfill was when he flew south to the Purtan Islands and back, traveling about 16 miles.

Bald Eagle KG09 route in 2020

2021

Throughout this year, KG09 followed a predictable pattern, spending most of his time at the Owl Trap landfill and making small flights within a six-mile diameter. In May, the transmitter data began to appear in abnormal straight lines, indicating a lapse in data collection. The lines were consistent with his previous pattern of flying between the Owl Trap Landfill and nearby areas. After additional sporadic data transmissions in the early summer, a biologist with Conservation Science Global, Inc. (the organization that manages the Cellular Tracking devices) emailed the Wildlife Center with the conclusion that, based on the data, KG09 had died sometime between April and May. His last transmission was near a highway, so he may have been hit by a car. His dependence on landfills may have also created health problems that led to his death.

Bald Eagle KG09 route in 2021