After climate change kills salmon, bald eagles adapt: experts
Bald eagles have long wintered along the waterways of northwest Washington. chum salmon It spawned, died, and was swept ashore.but climate change Forces the Eagles to adapt.
now the dead It has literally been wiped out by the effects of climate change. But apex predators have come to eat on farms.
They have transitioned from riverside feeding to farm patrols, feeding on dairy farm waste. Not dead salmon. Today, their favorite food is cow placenta and stillborn calves.
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Here’s what’s happening to the bald eagle.
What did the bald eagle eat before?
As salmon die after spawning, they provide a rich source of food and nutrients for local ecosystems, including bald. Eagle.
- Old behavior: Dead salmon were gently washed ashore for eager eagles.
- what is happening now: Salmon carcasses are washed downstream by winter storm surges.
- why? As rivers and streams warm, salmon are spawning earlier. High waves in winter also occur at different times.
- Final result: Dead salmon is no longer an easy food source for bald eagles.
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Many eagles relied on salmon for food
“A flock of eagles along the river is one of the coolest things to experience here,” said Ethan Duvall, who has studied eagles for more than a decade.
“On peak days, we saw more than 600 eagles along the Nooksack River. Candidate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University.hello Co-author of a recent paper on the phenomenon of the journal Ecosphere.
What happened when the salmon supply was wiped out?
The number of eagles along the river began to decline.
As he researched, Duvall found that climate change is changing things.
But it is not in vain to use “eagle-eyed” to mean the observer. With fewer salmon to eat, the eagle hunted for other food, and he found it on rich dairy farms in western Washington, Canada and southern Columbia.
Dairy cows were constantly giving birth, and local farmers were constantly required to dispose of placentas and stillborn calves. When they released them into the field, the eagles discovered a new feast area.
“Demolition of the corpse occurs between coyotes at night and eagles during the day,” said Karen Steensma, professor of biology at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia, and the study’s author. Happens in about 48 hours.
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“I have heard people talk about having 50 large raptors on their fields. said Steensma, whose family studied and owns a small dairy farm on the Washington side of the border.
Is it good for farmers too?
This benefits local dairies who have less waste to compost or transport. In addition, eagles eat by preventing birds and rodents from entering and contaminating or eating the feed storehouses.
It helps eagles by providing an important and plentiful food source during the peak winter months, when eagles have the hardest time surviving and usually have the highest mortality.
A stillborn calf can weigh up to 90 pounds, while the placenta weighs about 20 pounds.
“This study gives me hope,” said Duvall. “From now on, farmers, wildlife managers and conservationists can come together to think critically about how to maximize the benefits for people and wildlife in the spaces they share.”
Paper published in March journal ecosphere.