Earlier this winter, the folks at Bernheim Arboretum noticed a majestic golden eagle spending time in the forested hills of Bernheim Forest in Bullitt County.
On Feb. 10, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife officials helped catch the 10-pound raptor and attach a GPS satellite transmitter in hopes of learning more about these elusive birds.
This one has started his migration back north, and now he needs a name, Bernheim director Mark Wourms said.
"Since Bernheim will have the privilege of studying this amazing raptor for upwards of four years, it seemed only fitting to give him a name," Wourms said. "Our mission is to connect people with nature, so we thought why not ask the public's help in deciding his name and sharing in our research mission."
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Wourms said the Bernheim team has narrowed its list to three names and is asking the public to vote.
The choices are: Ike Bernheim (named for Isaac Bernheim, the distiller who gave the 14,000 acres south of Louisville for a nature preserve); Bernie Bernheim or Harper Bernheim.
Voting began Wednesday at Bernheim.org/golden-eagle and ends on April 21. The winning name will be announced April 22, Earth Day.
The website also shows the eagle's route north to possible nesting grounds in Canada. Just last weekend, the eagle was flying south of Chicago after traveling through Indiana.
This first-of-its-kind research in the state is a collaborative project involving Bernheim, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, and the Beckham Bird Club. The research aims to shed some light on the mystery surrounding these majestic birds during their winter migration in our region. Golden eagles have been seen at Bernheim for many years, but they are elusive.
"We'll learn about its habitat use as well as its migration and feeding patterns," said Andrew Berry, Bernheim's forest manager. "As we increase our understanding of these golden eagles, we can begin to focus efforts to protect the key stopovers and habitats, like Bernheim Forest, that these birds require during winter migration."
It's not well known that golden eagles spend time in Kentucky.
"Even fewer people know about their habits and importance in the ecosystem as an apex predator," Berry said. "This is an opportunity to share our knowledge and appreciation of this bird with our members and the general public."