Golden Eagle, Big Cypress, 1/10

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Posted by Mark Faherty on 17:48:32 01/12/07

Well, it's that time of year again, folks. Time for me to come stumbling out of some remote south Florida pineland, sputtering something about "there's Golden Eagles in them thar glades!"

While I was conducting pineland bird surveys in the Addition Lands section of Big Cypress National Preserve on Wednesday morning, a beautiful juvenile Golden Eagle flew over the wet prairie I was walking through and circled for a minute before moving off to the southeast. With the stiff northerly post-front winds blowing him, I figure he passed low over I-75 about 9:00. This was a close, stunning look at an unambiguously plumaged juvenile bird - crisp white patches above and below the wings, the golden hackles (a surprisingly obvious field mark for all plumages of GOEA under many light conditions), the sharply defined white base of the tail.

I did not notice any crossbills stuck in its talons.

I don't know why these birds find me, but I'm not complaining. The one I had last year, also a juvenile, was at Gum Slough, Big Cypress, in mid-February. Can someone enlighten me on other south Florida records for these guys? I'm lacking the proper resources. It's not such a wacky place for them as you'd think - the small eastern Canadian population of Golden Eagle is migratory and is known to have a high proportion of things like American Bittern and Great Blue Heron in their breeding season diet, unlike western birds who eat mainly jackrabbits and other medium-sized mammals. Plus, Golden Eagles have been reintroduced to the southern Appalachians as far south as Georgia.

Not that this bird is any where near there anymore, but the Addition Lands are accessible via the Florida Trail, from the trailhead by the second rest stop west of the Route 27 exit on I-75, MM-63. It's a lovely area of mature pine flatwoods interspersed with big, round wet prairies. Species there include Hairy Woodpecker, Wild Turkey, Brown-headed Nuthatch, and Red-tailed Hawk. Bear and Panther sign are common. It would make a nice one-night camping trip.

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