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A team of researchers developed a new method for identifying the geographic origins of golden eagles using DNA, a valuable tool for the management and conservation of the iconic raptor species.

Some North American golden eagles migrate long distances and can be exposed to a wide range of threats across the continent. Golden eagles born in remote locations in Canada and Alaska may face risks from collisions with vehicles and wind turbines, as well as exposure to contaminants such as lead, as they travel through more populated regions. Researchers developed a genetic method for distinguishing between breeding populations of golden eagles using DNA samples collected from individuals across the western U.S. and northern Canada. Based on DNA analysis, three genetic groups were identified: Taiga/High Arctic, Great Basin, and Rocky Mountain/Great Plains. The ability to identify the origins of migratory birds or birds killed due to human impacts, can help determine how things like wind turbines and contaminants are impacting specific breeding populations and aid the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in developing or refining golden eagle management plans.  

Judkins, M.E., Roemer, G.W., Millsap, B.A., Barnes, J.G., Bedrosian, B.E., Clarke, S.L., Domenech, R., Herring, G., Lamont, M., Smith, B.W., Stahlecker, D.W., Stuber, M.J., Warren, W.C., and Van Den Bussche, R.A., 2023, A 37K SNP array for the management and conservation of golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos): Conservation Genetics, Online. 

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