A Golden Morning

On this cool, breezy morning, I took a walk along the South Platte River before summer heat enveloped the Front Range.  Once again, low water attracted a variety of herons and egrets to the river shallows while cormorants fished in the deeper pools and a host of swallows strafed the water surface for insects.  A family of belted kingfishers lounged along a beaver pond and black-billed magpies were especially noisy and abundant.  But the highlight of my walk was the presence of a golden eagle, perched in a tree along the river.

Not nearly as common as bald eagles and ospreys along this stretch of the South Platte, golden eagles are more frequently observed in foothill canyons or near buttes and mesas on the High Plains where they nest on rock ledges.  Nevertheless, they may be encountered in rural areas of the Colorado Piedmont, hunting for prairie dogs, ground squirrels and rabbits; these powerful raptors are also known to kill grouse, wild turkeys, fox, fawns and young pronghorns on occasion.  Unlike bald eagles, they do not typically feed on carrion though they sometimes feast on dead deer or elk during the colder months.

Residents of the Northern Continents, golden eagles are primarily found in the Western U.S. but may wander to the Eastern States in winter.  This morning's visitor, while far from rare, was an unexpected treat, especially during the birding doldrums of summer.