Where eagles soar
Lake Pueblo is known locally for the over wintering Bald Eagles. People travel from around the state to see or photograph the nation’s symbol.
Bald eagles are beautiful and strike a chord with our patriotic side.
But, there is another eagle that calls our neighborhood home year round, and that is the Golden Eagle.
While bald eagles are the symbol of our country, the golden eagle is the symbol of Mexico and is on their national flag. Their likeness appears on more coins worldwide than any other symbol.
They are depicted in folklore and stories from every known culture.
The Latin word for eagle is Aquila, which is also a constellation in the northern sky.
In Greco-Roman mythology the eagle is the bird that carried Zeus/Jupiter’s thunderbolts.
Celtic folk lore has the eagle as the symbol of wisdom, while the Ancient Romans believed they represent strength and courage.
Nearly every known Native American tribe uses eagles as a symbol of magical powers, leadership, and both war and peace.
Last year during our annual Eagle Day festival, a caravan of cars traveled from the south side of the park to the north side to watch a rehabilitated red tail hawk be released back into the wild.
During the drive I saw our park photographer, Ron Drummond , whose photos appear in nearly every ranger station article, pulled over on the side of the road.
Like everyone else, I drove by without stopping or looking.
Later, Ron showed me a series of photos of a pair of Golden Eagles hunting prairie dogs, pictures he was taking when I drove by.
None of us in the caravan had seen them, on a day we were celebrating eagles.
Golden Eagles are here year round and I guess we get used to seeing them, but they are just as magnificent as their bald counterparts.
Just like bald eagles are not really bald, golden eagles are not really gold.
They are brown, but when the sun hits their feathers it has a gold tone.
They are the second largest bird of prey in Colorado and have an average wing span of six to seven feet and weigh up to 15 lbs.
While they are capable of taking large prey, they most often hunt small mammals, rodents, snakes and even other birds. At Lake Pueblo, they enjoy a buffet of prairie dogs and rabbits, which as we all know, are plentiful.
They have incredible eye sight during the day, but they have the same night vision has humans, which means they are out hunting during the daylight hours.
They fly at speeds of 30 mph, but may reach 150 mph during a dive.
The speed and accuracy of the dive, along with the amazing strength of their talons make them efficient hunters.
Falconers consider them the most elite raptor to hunt with.
Lake Pueblo has a pair of goldens in residence.
They have been here for several years and are usually seen together.
Golden Eagles may have a range of 60 square miles.
They are monogamous.
A pair stays together for many years or life, but if one partner is lost, the other will seek a new mate.
They nest build together and both incubate the eggs.
The female will lay eggs a few days apart, which means the clutch hatches at different times.
Often the older, or first hatched will become aggressive with its smaller siblings and kill and sometimes eat them.
But even that oldest eaglet has only a 25 percent chance of surviving its first year.
Golden eagles are not endangered and Colorado has a healthy population of them, but like every raptor they are protected and it is illegal to possess an eagle, its feathers or interfere with its nest.
The Lake Pueblo pair, have built two nests that we know of, and eagles usually will build more than one, before settling on one location.
They will add to that nest the following years so they are often very large and heavy.
Goldens prefer high rock ledges for their nests, which are made of sticks and branches.
Our pair did have a nest with two eaglets this year, and the oldest ate its sibling while Ron Drummond watched through his camera lens.
The older eaglet did not survive either, but the reason is unknown.
We do not disclose or advertise the location of the nest, as human interference, even unintentional may cause the pair to abandon the nest.
Golden eagles can live 30-plus years in the wild and up to 45-plus years in captivity, so we hope to enjoy our pair for many years to come.
Our annual eagle day celebration will be held Feb. 1-2.
All of the activities on the 1st are at Lake Pueblo, check www.eagleday.org for the schedule of events.
One of the many highlights is the live birds of prey.
Diana Miller from the Nature and Raptor Center of Pueblo and her crew are there all day with their birds, and Diana will be giving two presentations on the Feb. 1 One will be specifically on eagles and her special quests will be Babe and Aquila.
Both are golden eagles that have been education ambassadors for many years.
Aquila has been with the raptor center for nearly 30 years.
Babe and Aquila were brought to the center due to injuries that were serious enough that they could not survive the wild again.
Without the intervention of Diana and her staff, both birds would have succumbed.
Thankfully, we have them to teach people about birds of prey, those lessons may help keep the population healthy.
Eagle Day events are free, but a parks pass is required on all vehicles entering the park.