By Christa Rolls, USAG Bavaria Environmental Division
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — Grafenwoehr Training Area is one of the few places in Bavaria that supports a healthy population of white-tailed eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla), a species closely related to the North American bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus).
Recently, one of the young eagles banded on GTA in 2013 by U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria Environmental Division personnel, experts from the Bundesforst, Germany’s Federal Forest Service, and the Naturschutzbund Deuschland, a German nature conservation organization, was re-sighted southeast of Regensburg.
Leg bands allow researchers to determine information critical to studying and learning more about birds, including individual behavior, movements and survival.
During the banding process, the bird’s weight, wing measurements, age and geographic location are recorded. The data is then logged in association with the bird’s unique leg band number. If the bird is ever captured, killed or spotted through a viewing scope, the band number can be used to learn more about the eagle’s life and habits.
The white-tailed eagle’s population plummeted due to over-hunting, the use of the pesticide DDT — which causes egg shells to weaken and break — and habitat loss. In recent years, there has been a population increase due to conservation efforts, and the white-tailed eagle remains federally protected.
These magnificent birds require little to no human disturbance for raising their young and remain relatively undisturbed by military training activities. In many cases, military training areas assist in protecting various species and habitats, as training requires facilitation and preservation of different habitat types that are off-limits to agricultural use and the public.
GTA has been an essential stepping stone for re-establishing the white-tailed eagle population in Bavaria, as the first documented successful reproduction in the region occurred in 2001 in the training area. Four breeding pairs of eagles are known to have territories in GTA, with potentially more not yet surveyed.
The Environmental Division and Germany’s Bundesforst are responsible for monitoring white-tailed eagles in Grafenwoehr Training Area.
If members of the USAG Bavaria community spot a banded white-tailed eagle, consider snapping a photograph of the bird, but only from a safe distance and if done in an authorized entry location. Since white-tailed eagles are protected, it is illegal to disturb or harass them, and no one should attempt to approach them.
Eagle leg band photographs or re-sight information should be sent to Stefan Haertl of the USAG Bavaria Environmental Division at email@example.com, CIV: 09641-83-8222.
For more information about the Environmental Division, visit home.army.mil/bavaria/index.php/environmental.