Meet Hermes, the third golden eagle named at Bernheim Forest

The Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest has recently welcomed a new resident, a 6-year-old male eastern golden eagle named Hermes. Bernheim, located in central Kentucky, was the chosen destination for Hermes after online votes from local nature-lovers. Hermes is unique as he belongs to a specific population within the North American golden eagle subspecies, the eastern golden eagles, which take different migration routes than any other in its species.

The eastern golden eagle, notably shy and avoiding human interactions, was found along Golden Eagle Ridge, a secluded and hilly area at the center of Bernheim’s thick forests. Hermes is now a part of Bernheim’s long-term eastern golden eagle project. Researchers at Bernheim have been studying these eagles since 15 years ago due to the unknown aspects surrounding their behavior and migration in Kentucky.

To track the migration patterns of the golden eagles, transmitters are fitted on their backs like a backpack. Since Hermes was equipped with one, he has traveled through northern Kentucky, Indiana, spent a month hunting around the Great Lakes, and is currently moving between the United States and Canada along Lake Huron.

Researchers believe Hermes might not have a mate or a nest, as he is exhibiting behaviors of less frequent hunting. Prior to Hermes, Bernheim had been tracking Athena, a female golden eagle, since 2019. Athena was the mate of Harper, the first golden eagle they ever tracked. Sadly, Harper died somewhere in the Canadian wilderness in 2021.

The Eastern Golden Eagle Working Group recently created a conservation plan to protect these eagles from environmental threats like wind turbines and lead poisoning, which are common due to their migration patterns and susceptibility. The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act has protected all subspecies federally since 1940, but the unique threats to eastern golden eagles require specific attention and action.

Bernheim manages its lands to support conservation efforts and further scientific research about species like golden eagles. They conduct controlled burns at Golden Eagle Ridge to eliminate invasive species, providing access for researchers. The data collected from Hermes and Athena supports these efforts, and Bernheim will continue to track both eagles during their migrations across North America. This story clarifies that eastern golden eagles are a population of bird within the North American subspecies.

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