SANTA MONICA—For the first time in decades, golden eagle chickens have been discovered in the Santa Monica Mountains. A nest of golden eagle chicks were reported in the area near Labo Canyon, in the late 1980s.

“The chicks, a 12-week-old male and a female, were located several weeks ago when a consultant conducting bird surveys on private property identified the golden eagle pair and notified park biologists. NPS biologists working with biologists from the U.S. Geological Survey and Bloom Biological Inc., confirmed the nest location and activity and banded them in early May,” stated the National Park Service in a press release on its website. 

The chicks were placed with two bands, one colored and one numbered. The bands are used to help scientists monitor their status and progress of growth in the population. Blood was also taken from the chicks for genetic testing.

Katy Delaney, an ecologist with Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park Service, states, “Loss of habitat for nesting and hunting has reduced their range in much of the state.” 

“Humans are the greatest threat to golden eagles,” Delaney said. “In the past, they were trapped and shot throughout their range and today, they are vulnerable to habitat loss. Like their mammalian carnivore counterparts, they can die from eating poisoned prey as well as from lead poisoning, electrocution on power lines and collisions with wind turbines.”

“We haven’t seen them in so many years, though they could have been around and staying away from people.” Delaney said. “We just went through a huge fire and drought, and we’re also not going to see a decrease in urban development. Nonetheless, this is a good thing for our mountains. We not only have mountain lions here, but we have golden eagles, too.”

Golden eagles tend to feed on rabbits and squirrels. In the case of these eagles western gulls was the food of choice at the time of banding. Seven gull wings were located in the nest, found in a large cave.

The golden eagle, one of the largest birds in North America, and is a cousin of the bald eagle. Sightings are extremely rare and both are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Biologists believe the population may be declining in the United States, especially in California.

The golden eagle is one of 11 raptors, birds that hunt and feed on other animals, that breed in the Santa Monica Mountains. A nesting pair was observed north of the 101 Freeway in the Simi HIlls at Cheeseboro Canyon in the 1990s but nesting has not been detected in the Santa Monica Mountains since the 1980s. A survey of the mountains in the 2000s did not yield any active golden eagle nests.

Written By Tameara Lewis and Casey Jacobs