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Distribution and abundance of Aquila chrysaetos (golden eagles) in East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservation Plan/Natural Community Conservation Plan area, California

September 16, 2020

The East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservation Plan/Natural Community Conservation Plan (HCP/NCCP) Preserve System was designed to protect and enhance ecological diversity and function in eastern Contra Costa County, California. Aquila chrysaetos (golden eagle) is a special-status species expected to benefit from biological goals of the HCP/NCCP. As part of a broader study, we estimated site-occupancy, abundance, and reproduction of golden eagles in the HCP/NCCP inventory area in 2019. We completed 99 surveys and recorded a total of 50 detections of territorial pairs of eagles at 20 (67 percent) of 30 sites (13.9-square-kilometer [km2] plots). Detection probability of territorial pairs was highest in January and February (≥0.75) and lowest in mid-June to late July (<0.50). After correcting for imperfect detection, the expected probability of site-occupancy was 0.69 (standard error [SE] = 0.09), and mean expected abundance was 0.76 pairs per site (SE = 0.16), or 27.4 pairs per 500 km2. We found evidence of successful nesting (≥1 young fledged) for 3 (14 percent) of 22 pairs of eagles monitored in 2019. Our study design and baseline results should be useful for future monitoring and conservation of golden eagles in the HCP/NCCP area.

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