Tracking Bald Eagle W20: 2015–2020

Bald Eagle W20 headshotBald Eagle #15-0642 [W20] was admitted to the Wildlife Center in May 2015 after she was found near Widewater State Park, unable to fly. After more than three months of rehabilitation, the mature eagle was released at Widewater State Park on August 26, 2015.

Center staff were able to track the travels of W20 for more than five years, from the date of her 2015 release to December 2020 when her movements appeared to stop. Additional investigation by Wildlife Center staff confirmed that Bald Eagle W20 had died; a post-mortem examination revealed that the bird had lead toxicosis.

During her 5 1/2 years of tracking, Bald Eagle W20 stayed close to "home", centering her travels around Widewater State Park. Over the years, the eagle re-visited several favorite hangout spots, including Quantico, the Mattawoman Creek in Maryland, and the Crow's Nest Natural Area Preserve by the Potomac Creek in Virginia.

2015

In the months following her release, Bald Eagle W20 spent most of her time in Virginia, in and around Fredericksburg and Stafford Counties. She ventured across the Potomac River to Maryland several times. 

Bald Eagle W20 Route in 2015

2016

W20's travels in 2016 stayed fairly centered around Widewater State Park. She made regular visits to the  Mattawoman Creek and Bullitt Neck in Maryland, as well as the Crow's Nest Natural Area Preserve by the Potomac Creek in Virginia.  

Bald Eagle W20 route in 2016

2017

W20's 2017 travels looked similar to 2016; the eagle mostly stayed in Virginia, with frequent visits to the Maryland peninsula, just across the Potomac River.  

Bald Eagle W20 Route in 2017

2018

Bald Eagle W20 spent another year traveling throughout her home territory; most frequently visited spots included Quantico, Mattawoman Creek, the Crow's Nest Natural Area Preserve, and of course -- Widewater State Park.

Bald Eagle W20 Route in 2018

 

2019

W20 remained in her typical territory this year; through regular tracking updates, we noted some repeated seasonal movements compared to previous years. It's likely that the eagle was moving to different feeding grounds at different times of year. In the spring, W20 even may have crossed paths with another eagle that the Center was tracking -- MN18! 

Bald Eagle W20 Route in 2019

2020

W20 spent another year -- marking five years after her rehabilitation and release -- following her same travel circuit in Virginia and Maryland. In the late fall, W20 spent time west of Fredericksburg, before her tracking movements started to get smaller and smaller in range. In December, the data points indicated that W20 had died or her transmitter had fallen off.

On December 6, Connor, one of the Center's front-desk coordinators, decided to go out to the area to see if he could find the transmitter or the eagle's body. Based on the average of the data points that CellTrack biologists supplied, Connor was able to find the eagle quickly; sadly, W20 was deceased.  He picked up the bird and brought her back to the Wildlife Center for a post-mortem examination.

Bald Eagle W20 was thin, with no obvious wounds or fractures; radiographs revealed an irregularly shaped, 2.4 x 3mm metal opacity in the region of the bird's ventriculus [lower gastrointestinal tract]. A lead test was run on post-mortem fluid in the eagle's oral cavity, which came back as a high positive.  Additional post-mortem tests confirmed that the eagle had very high levels of lead in her system. 

Bald Eagle W20 route in 2020