Locations near Fort Collins:
Fossil Creek Reservoir Open Space, St. Vrain State Park, along North Platte River, along Poudre River, Barr Lake State Park, Arapahoe National Wildlife Refuge
When in the Fort Collins area:
The best time to see bald eagles in Colorado is early December through February when open waters may not be frozen. As the population of eagles has increased (thanks to a very successful reintroduction after placement on the endangered species list), some pairs have made their home year round in Colorado, including at Barr Lake State Park and Arapahoe National Wildlife Refuge. During the remainder of the year, the best places to see bald eagles are further north – Alaska and Minnesota boast strong populations.
Bald eagles mate from late winter to early spring; 2-3 eggs are laid 5-10 days after copulation; eggs hatch approximately one month later (April/May); eaglets leave the nest around 10-12 weeks after birth (early July is common in CO). Eagles will mate for life and can live up to 30 years, making the opportunities for breeding up to 20 times. Bald eagles are not sexually mature until 4-5 years of age; as a result, their coloring remains darker brown (sometimes mistaken for a golden eagle) until this time when they will transform into the majestic beauty with the white head and white tail feathers. Bald eagles prefer fish so they are frequently seen near bodies of water. They will also eat water loving birds, such as Canada geese and ducks. In places like CO where bodies of water are less accessible than say Alaska, eagles may also feed on small mammals, such as prairie dogs and rabbits. Look for bald eagles sitting on branches high in tall trees, such as cottonwoods, along the edges of bodies of water. Search for the white heads and a dark body amongst the lighter branches. During the spring and early summer, eagles will stay close to their nest while they are raising their young. Nests are extremely large – up to several feet wide – and made of large branches in the tops of sturdy trees or on man-made platforms. One nest in MN was recorded to weigh two tons! Bald eagles are also frequently spotted near fish hatcheries and where warm water mixes with cold, such as at power plants (the water won’t freeze in winter so the fish are accessible).
Majestic Eagles: Compelling Facts and Images of the Bald Eagle, by Stan Tekiela
National Audubon Society Field Guide to Birds: Western Region
Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife: (has an eagle cam of the nest in St. Vrain)
Decorah Fish Hatchery in Iowa (popular eagle cam this past spring)
The Rocky Mountain Raptor Program
Autumn Eagles by Robert Otoole Nature Photography