Tracking Bald Eagle MN18: 2017–2020

Bald Eagle MN18Bald Eagle #17-0836 [MN18] was admitted to the Wildlife Center in May 2017 as a hatch-year eaglet after she fell from her nest in Essex County. After more than three months of rehabilitation, the young eagle (along with fellow eaglet MN72) was released at Mason Neck State Park in August 2017.

Center staff were able to track the travels of MN18 for more than two years until tracking data indicated that the bird had likely died in early February 2020 in King George County.  The staff were unable to confirm what happened to the eagle and the transmitter, in the days before her death, MN18 visited the King George County landfill. Landfills are often visited by scavenging eagles, particularly younger birds; the Center has treated several Bald Eagles rescued from this landfill location.

2017

After her August release, MN18 explored the area around Mason Neck State Park for a couple of weeks before she started flying west. By the end of the month, she had flown through Fauquier, Culpeper, Rappahannock, Page, and Shenandoah Counties -- a trip of about 130 miles! After spending a week in the Shenandoah Valley, MN18 flew east again, back to the Northern Neck of Virginia. She spent the rest of the year visiting King George County (including the landfill there), Stafford County, and making several trips back and forth across the Potomac River to Maryland. 

A Google Earth map with purple lines tracking the movements of an eagle.

2018

MN18 spent the first half of the year visiting a few landfills in the Northern Neck of Virginia, and continued to make frequent trips across the Potomac to Maryland. In mid-June, she started flying north -- and staff were able to watch the data points move from Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, all the way to Canada! The GPS transmitter check-ins were spotty throughout the summer, likely due to cell reception, but MN18 spent most of her summer in northern Quebec at the Ashuapmushuan Wildlife Reserve. In October, the young eagle flew south again, and was in Virginia, within 50 miles of the Mason Neck State Park by the end of November. MN18 finished out the year in King George County. 

A Google Earth map with purple lines tracking the movements of an eagle.

2019

Once again, MN18 spent the first part of her year in Virginia and Maryland, with many trips back to the King George County landfill. In the early spring, she visited the Crow's Nest Natural Area Preserve in Stafford County, Virginia, where Bald Eagle W20 was also located at the time! At the end of May, the eagle headed north again, through Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, and Canada. By mid-June, MN18 was back in Quebec, and spent all summer frequenting different lakes throughout northern Quebec. On October 9, the eagle started to fly south again and arrived back in the USA by mid-October, arriving in Virginia on October 21. The eagle spent the reminder of the year flying around the Northern Neck of Virginia, and once again made several visits to the King George County landfill. 

A Google Earth map with purple lines tracking the movements of an eagle.

2020

MN18 spent January in the Northern Neck of Virginia, mostly frequenting the King George County landfill. Sadly, in early February, a biologist with Conservation Science Global, Inc. [the organization that manages the Cellular Tracking devices] emailed the Wildlife Center to discuss the (lack of) movement of Bald Eagle MN18.  After the bird's last January 28 check-in, the eagle’s GPS transmitter sent the same general coordinates each day, and the transmitter battery quickly drained, indicating that it hadn’t been able to charge. The biologist suspected that the eagle died.  Center staff contacted a local rehabilitator to see if he could recover the eagle's body, but conditions in that area of King George County were extremely marshy and difficult to navigate, and the rehabilitator was unable to locate the eagle.