Morphometric sex determination of North American Golden Eagles
Harmata, Alan R.
Montopoli, G. J.
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We made up to 12 measurements of 79 captured Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos canadensis) to evaluate best metrics for noninvasive, morphometric determination of sex. Sex of 43 male and 36 female Golden Eagles was confirmed post-release: 60 by DNA analysis and 19 by position during copulation. Eagles in adult plumage made up 57% of eagles of confirmed sex. All male and female morphometric means differed (P < 0.01) but most (n = 10) metric ranges overlapped >10% between sexes. There was no overlap between sexes for the hallux claw (HAL) and head length (HEAD) metrics, regardless of age class. All male HAL and HEAD measurements were ≤51.7 mm and 119.5 mm, respectively. All female HAL and HEAD metrics were ≥51.6 mm and 119.8 mm, respectively. Multiple regression analysis indicated HAL and HEAD metrics were best of 12 morphometrics as indicators of sex (P < 0.04). Factorial ANOVAs showed no effect of age class and age class-by-sex interaction on dependent variables HAL and HEAD (P > 0.05). Sex assignments by plotting HAL and HEAD metrics of known-sex eagles relative to bivariate normal probability distribution (BNPD) percentile curves were 100% correct. Discriminate score (DS) derived from discriminate function analysis (DFA) incorporating HAL and HEAD metrics classified our sample eagles with 100% accuracy. Confirmatory analyses were 100% accurate. We also evaluated Bortolotti's (1984, Journal of Field Ornithology 55:54–66) methods of sex assignment using eagles we captured: culmen length (CL) and HAL correctly identified 89% of our known-sex eagles. Six of seven (86%) incorrect designations using his age-class dependent models were males classified as females, likely due to the variable effects of overgrown CLs or shrinkage in the museum specimens Bortolotti used. We propose using empirical data-driven BNPD plots first and then DS models if needed to assign sex to Golden Eagles >3.5 mo old in the field. Magnitude of the species' sexual dimorphism may mask clinal differences in intrasex HAL and HEAD metrics throughout the species' latitudinal range and these metrics may be accurate indicators of sex, regardless of age or region of origin in western North America.
Harmata, A.R. and G. J. Montopoli. 2013. Morphometric sex determination of North American Golden Eagles. Journal of Raptor Research 47(2):108-116