Wildlife biologists now use of noninvasively-collected hair samples as a source of DNA for population monitoring (e.g., enumeration), but former PhD student Jamie Rudnick used feathers to monitor population turnover in the Eastern Imperial Eagle. She documented that eagles are genetically monogamous, highly philopatric, and choose mates without regard to relatedness (Rudnick et al. 2005) and that hundreds of juveniles roost together. Postdoc Jackie Doyle is now conducting similar research in golden eagles from California’s Mojave Desert, in collaboration with Dr. Todd Katzner at West Virginia University.
J. Andrew DeWoody
Rudnick J.A., Katzner T.E., Bragin E.A., Rhodes O.E. & DeWoody J.A. (2005) Using naturally shed feathers for individual identification, genetic parentage analyses, and population monitoring in an endangered Eastern imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca) population from Kazakhstan. Molecular Ecology 14:2959-2967.
Rudnick J. A., Katzner T.E., Bragin E.A. & DeWoody J.A. (2007) Species identification of birds through genetic analysis of naturally shed feathers. Molecular Ecology Notes 7:757-762.
Rudnick J.A., Katzner T.E., Bragin E.A. & DeWoody J.A. (2008) A noninvasive genetic evaluation of population size, philopatry, and communal roosting behavior of non-breeding imperial eagles (Aquila heliacal). Conservation Genetics 9:667-676.
Rudnick J.A., Katzner T.E. & DeWoody J.A. (2009) Genetic analyses of noninvasively collected feathers can provide new insights into avian demography and behavior. Pp. 181-197, in: Handbook of Nature Conservation, Nova Science Publishers.