An ecosystem-based approach to conserving salmon species: Using bald eagle foraging behaviour as an ecological indicator to the health of coastal food webs and salmon ecosystems

Across British Columbia, pacific salmon species provide nutrients for coastal food webs and ecosystems by returning to their natal rivers to complete their spawning cycle. As salmon are the main prey species of bald eagles, it is essential to further understand the effect that the current decline in salmon populations across British Columbia could have on the foraging behaviour of these apex predators. The goal of this research is to identify the foraging techniques of bald eagles under current salmon spawner abundances to determine if their foraging techniques will change under a modeled decline in carcass availability. To determine this, field observations on bald eagle foraging behaviour will be compared to their behaviour under a simulated crash in salmon populations in a scientific model. The anticipated results of the model include: 1) adults will outcompete juveniles for food, causing their mortality rate to increase and 2) the eagle predation rate on waterfowl species will increase, which will put additional pressure on already endangered bird populations.

Faculty Supervisor:

Ron Ydenberg


Kristen Walters


Hancock Wildlife Foundation




Life sciences




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