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Harper The Golden Eagle Returns To Bernheim Forest

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest

The second of two golden eagles tracked by Bernheim Forest has returned to Kentucky following a 40-day migration from his summer range in the Canadian Wilderness.

Bernheim Research Forest and Arboretum has been following the pair for the last two seasons. Staff believe they’re the first breeding pair to be tracked in the United States. Harper returned last week, about 10 days after Athena.

Harper and Athena have spent their summers in the wilderness surrounding the Hudson Bay in Manitoba, a province of Canada. When the weather cools, the pair returns to Bernheim for the winter. Interestingly though, the eagles take different migration paths. 

For the last two seasons, Athena has travelled east around Lake Superior while Harper

heads West around the great lake traveling through Minnesota and Wisconsin. 

This year Harper, who Bernheim has tracked since 2015, made an extended stopover in western Wisconsin before returning to the forest in Bullitt County. 

Conservation Director Andrew Berry said in a blog post that the areas extending northwest from Madison, Wisconsin, mark the edge of rugged northern wilderness, and are popular spots for migratory golden eagles and other raptors. 

“It was not until November 17, after 17 days spent in western Wisconsin, that [Harper] began the final leg of his journey across 400 miles of unfriendly midwestern agricultural lands towards Bernheim,” Berry wrote. 

After 40 days of migrating, Harper crossed the Ohio River at West Point, Kentucky, just before noon on Monday. He was traveling at 53 miles per hour more than 2,100 feet in the air. 

Berry tracks the eagles using solar-powered GPS trackers the raptors’ wear on their backs. Berry believes it’s likely that Harper and Athena have already reunited, and he will know more in the coming days.

“By now we can assume these two golden eagles have reunited, although Athena has not checked in for a few days, so we cannot be sure of how the reunion went,” Berry said. “Stay tuned for upcoming details of their activities now that they’re back in Bernheim.”

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.