Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Golden Eagles

The picture of this golden eagle is just about the best closeup of this bird I have ever seen. It was taken by Montanagirl, who does absolutely wonderful photography of wildlife in the West.

On Saturday Mrs. T and I will be particpating in a volunteer survey of this magnificent bird. This will be our first time to involve ourselves in this scientific research project. The goldens were once thought to be quite rare here in Minnesota. They are not common but there are definitely more than rare. To the none practiced eye they can be confused with immature bald eagles. Balks have increased, in recent decades, from less than one hundred to hundreds nesting here in the summer and possibly thousands, who winter in the Mississippi valley.
The National Eagle Center in Wabasha Minnesota has been doing a study of Golden Eagles in the Upper Mississippi watershed for several years now.
Last year the survey included:
100 Observers
40 Routes
10 Counties in WI
5 Counties in MN
1 County in Iowa
70 Golden Eagles on Count Day, January 17, 2009
18 additional Golden Eagles were surveyed during Count Week (Most of these routes were away from the core area, or in areas where none were seen on count day)
88 Golden Eagles for the 2009 Wintering Golden Eagle Survey of the Bluffs and Coulee Region of the Upper Mississippi River Watershed!
Scott Mehus is the education director and researcher at the center. Mrs T. & I attended his class for tips on identifying Goldens. The trick is to separate them from immature Balds. The number of Bald Eagles identified last year was 456. This is considered by Scott quite amazing since the routes assigned to the volunteers to survey are away from the river. Golden Eagles do not associate with water as the Balds do. Mrs T and I will be traveling one of the assigned routes on Saturday looking for Golden Eagles.
There are several identification clues:

One way to distinguish a golden eagle from an immature bald eagle is leg plumage. A golden eagle's legs are entirely feather covered; an immature bald eagle's lower legs are bare. As seen while in flight, juvenile golden eagles have white patches at the base of the primaries; the tail is white with a distinct dark terminal band. It takes four years to acquire adult plumage. The leg thing is because goldens do not fish nor scavenge like balds. They are hunters preying upon small mammals. Golden eagles can be found throughout much of the northern hemisphere. The live in mountainous areas, prairie coulees, and other places where rugged terrain creates abundant updrafts.

Take a look at the comparison picture in the previous post. Do you stick with your original opinion or change your mind?


  1. Yes, it is a beautiful shot! We're hoping to see our eagles this Sunday. If we do, you can rest assured I'll post.

  2. Have a wonderful time on Saturday. I hope you tell us all about it!

  3. Great post. We were back visiting family in Pennyslvania and saw a golden there--the state was reintroducing them. So nice to see one aspect of nature that's actually BETTER than it was 40 years ago.

    Goldens DO scavenge road kill, though. Probably a learned behavior since the advent of interstate highways. Maybe in another 10 or 20 thousand years they'll evolve bare legs too? They also do pretty well at picking off the occasional elk, deer, and antelope fawns.

  4. What a beauty TB. This sounds like a wonderful project. I wish I could get involved in things like this.

  5. So beautiful... I think I'd be so awe struck I'd forget to raise my lens!

  6. Interesting post, TB! Thanks for the credit given to me for my photo. That was a rare opportunity for me. They don't usually sit long enough for me to even get one shot off. Have fun on your excursion and do share with us your findings. Take lots of photos!

  7. Excellent! Good luck on your survey!

  8. It is certainly a beautiful bird. I hope these high number counts are correct. It would be wonderful if these birds were increasing.