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The Majestic Bald and Golden Eagles of Colorado

 

February 28, 2018

Karen AuBuchon Johnson

This magnificent Golden Eagle is one of the many Bald and Golden Eagles featured in our Colorful Colorado photographic display

Here is a pictorial journey of the many eagles I was blessed to see and photograph during a recent trip through the Colorado mountains and on over to the Western Slope. Enjoy!

To view the pages with all the photographs click the following link: http://www.epcan.com/home/customer_files/pdfs/alternate/ftnv_2.28.18_karens_eagle_papgesreduse.pdf

Winter is an excellent time to view both Bald and Golden Eagles in Colorado. The population of both raptors increases dramatically as migrating birds come here from up north, sometimes as far as Alaska, to spend the winter months. There are also year-round residents from both species living in Colorado.

Wintering Bald Eagles can sometimes be spotted flying along the riverways and lakes or perched in large trees near open water.

Locally Bald Eagles have been observed near the Fountain Creek Nature Center and Fountain Valley School/Big Johnson Reservoir, the Arkansas River, Tarryall Creek and South Platte River and Eleven Mile State Park. (I've even seen them flying over the city of Fountain and Widefield.)

The Bald Eagle is the only eagle unique to North America. Its range covers most of the continent, from the northern reaches of Alaska and Canada south to northern Mexico.

Bald Eagle Festivals, highlighting Bald Eagles, are held every February at Barr Lake near Denver (where a nesting pair can also be observed at the lake year round) and Lake Pueblo Eagle Days at Pueblo Reservoir when wintering eagles visit the park. John Martin Reservoir State Park also has both wintering Bald and Golden Eagles.

The majestic Bald Eagle became our national bird and has been on the National Emblem of the United States since 1782.

According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife http://cpw.state.co.us

In 1782, as many as 100,000 nesting Bald Eagles lived in the continental United States, excluding Alaska. However, due to years of human persecution, habitat loss, food source reduction, and impaired reproduction caused by environmental contaminants, especially the pesticide DDT, only 417 nesting pairs were found in the lower 48 states by 1963. The Bald Eagle was listed as endangered throughout most of its range (including Colorado) under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

Since the banning of DDT in 1972 and intensive protection efforts through numerous government organizations, groups and thousands of individual Americans, Bald Eagle populations have increased throughout much of the United States over the past several decades.

According to U.S. Fish & Wildlife figures, in 2006 there were 9,789 nesting pairs in the contiguous United States.

The Bald Eagle has made a tremendous comeback, yet there still is a concern of fatal lead poisoning if they eat animals shot with lead ammunition.

Bald Eagles primarily eat fish but will feed on waterfowl, rabbits, prairie dogs, snakes, and other small animals and carrion.

While Golden Eagles are primarily located in the western portion of the United States, they also inhabit other parts of the world including Asia, North Africa and Europe.

Locally Golden Eagles have been observed year-round at Mueller State Park, Cheyenne Mountain State Park, and Lake Pueblo State Park. They can also be observed in the outlying open areas surrounding Colorado Springs, Security, Widefield and Fountain and in the mountains just west of here.

They inhabit open mountain areas, foothills, plains and open country, and rugged terrain. These raptors are more solitary creatures and do not congregate in large numbers like Bald Eagles. Golden Eagles are swift and agile, less of a scavenger and more of a hunter predator compared to Bald Eagles who won't hesitate to scavenge food. Occasionally pairs can be observed strategically hunting large prey together.

Increased urbanization and human population numbers, locally along the Front Range, has encroached upon their territory, decreasing their forage habitat. Rotating wind turbine blades and electric power transmission lines have been linked to numerous Golden Eagle deaths across the west.

Karen AuBuchon Johnson

High winds ruffle this eagle's feathers as it rests on an old tree stump.

These birds are dark brown, with golden colored plumage on their crown and napes. Immature eagles typically have white on their tails with a narrow brown band across the bottom and a white patch near the center of each wing. Golden Eagles reach maturity between four to five years of age.

They also eat carrion, primarily they hunt smaller mammals to include rabbit, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, and marmots; snakes; and have even been known to attack larger animals such as deer and antelope.

For centuries, this species has been one of the most highly regarded birds used in falconry across the world. Goldens along with Bald Eagles are regarded with great spiritual reverence by Native Americans and some tribal cultures. Other countries including Mexico, have the Golden Eagle as its national bird or most revered symbol.

 

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