Knowledge of dispersal from natal areas by pre-breeding-age Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) in North America is sparse, though crucial for conservation planning. During 2010–2015, we used satellite telemetry to document movement behavior of pre-breeding-age Golden Eagles from the Colorado Plateau and Southern Rocky Mountains of the southwestern U.S.A. Here we report on (1) 1st-yr dispersal timing, distances, strategies, and survival; (2) influences of age, sex, nest-mates, and area of origin; and (3) progressive distancing from natal nests and coinciding space use, including overlap between individuals' home ranges at the end of their 1st and 2nd yr. Our dataset included 293,960 GPS fixes from 66 Golden Eagles monitored through at least the onset of dispersal. All dispersed at age <1 yr. Most (66.7%) initiated dispersal during 16 September–21 November (median = 22 October, 191 d after median hatch date). We could assign each of 60 eagles to one of four 1st-yr dispersal categories based on maximum distance traveled from natal nests: short-distance (SD), generally <120 km (66.7% of eagles); moderate-distance (MD), 120–500 km (16.7%); long-distance (LD) >500 km (13.3%); and Other (3.3%). LDs dispersed at younger ages than SDs and were more likely to be from the arid half of our study area. First-year survival was significantly lower for LDs. Overlap of 95% kernel density home ranges at ages 12 and 24 mo was 42.2% (±6.4 SE) for 26 SDs and 26.5% (±9.5) for eight MDs. Our data indicate that, during at least their 1st and 2nd yr of life, most Golden Eagles from the Colorado Plateau and Southern Rocky Mountains remain within 120 km of their nests, where they experience high survival and are relatively settled by the end of their 1st yr. As such, these landscapes are key habitat for at least 1st- and 2nd-yr eagles as well as breeding pairs.
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Vol. 51 • No. 3