Eagles of Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, CO

“Lift Off” An adult bald eagle takes flight from a snag near Lake Derby. Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, CO. This eagle landed to my south while I was facing north, aniticpating eagles returning to the roost in the evening. We spent a few minutes together before he left for the roost. I guess he was checking me out. Haliaeetus leucocephalus

January and February are all about raptors, and bald eagles in particular at Rocky Mountain Arsenal. The refuge, with its man-made lakes from the homestead era, is home to between 25-50 eagles in winter. Other than the resident nesting pair, they migrate from Canada to feed on fish and black-tailed prairie dogs until late February or early March when the north starts thawing out. Biologists record the evening roost count – eagles are communal roosters and prefer two trees east of Lake Derby. There are 50 bald eagles at the refuge this week! Not bad for an urban wildlife refuge sandwiched between metro Denver and the airport. It’s no wonder that Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar calls RMA “the most important urban wildlfe refuge in America.”

Bald eagles are most active in early morning and evening when they’re leaving or returning to the roost. I like to just stand in one spot near the lake and wait to see what happens – it’s different every day. Sometimes a pair will do aerial barrel rolls, and you can count on one or two eagles flying straight into a flock of a few thousand Canada geese; all exploding from the water and squawking their heads off. I’ve yet to see one caught for breakfast, but I’m sure they get their goose occasionally. Yesterday, the first eagle left the roost 45 minutes before sunrise and flew into the geese like a rocket – in near darkness! I wonder sometimes if they do it just for fun…

2 thoughts on “Eagles of Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, CO

    1. I photographed a golden eagle eating a Canada goose once and I’ve seen footage of bald eagles hunting coots – they must nail one occasionally. It’s fun to watch when they get a few thousand in the air from one pass!

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