Golden eagles in love in Aspen? | VailDaily.com
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Golden eagles in love in Aspen?

John Colson
Aspen Correspond
Vail, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad / The Aspen TimesThe resident 25-year-old female golden eagle at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies prepares to lock talons with a wild golden eagle Monday afternoon. It is unknown whether the visiting eagle is male or female.
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ASPEN, Colorado ” She is a regal golden eagle found on Aspen Mountain 25 years ago with a busted wing and a broken leg.

After being nursed back to health, she has become a living icon at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, where she has lived and performed educational duties for the past quarter-century.

And lately, for the first time that anyone at the environmental center can remember, she apparently has a boyfriend.

Staff at the center say a male golden eagle has been hanging around the facility, located alongside Hallam Lake and the Roaring Fork River on the north side of Aspen, for the past week or so.

The visiting eagle reportedly has been seen swooping down close to the mound of earth where the female eagle’s perch is located, and employees report that the two eagles have locked talons on more than one occasion, which is a characteristic maneuver for mating eagles.

On Monday, according to observers, the pair locked talons in a tumbling embrace much longer than any previous clinches. When it was over, the female had to be brought inside when blood was detected on one of her talons.

The main problem is the female eagle has not been able to fly because of the injuries she sustained a quarter of a century ago, staffers say.

So, while she is able to leap up and “tumble” with the other bird for a brief moment, there is doubt as to whether the raptors actually have the time to mate.

Lindsy Stinnett, the center’s community outreach coordinator, said the visitor has never landed anywhere near the female, but tends to sit on a branch in a nearby tree, watching he female as she sits on her perch.

And when the female is brought inside for the night, the visiting eagle often hangs around near her enclosure, as well.

Jim Kravitz, director of the center’s naturalist program, said the female is fine after her encounter with her visitor Monday afternoon.

And, he said, “there is the slimmest of possibilities” that the two actually can mate successfully. He said mating can happen on the ground, although it seems to be inextricably linked with certain “rituals in the air,” such as the locking of talons.

Kravitz said action has been taken to keep the eagle out of harm’s way, when coyotes and bears have come a little too close for comfort, although he maintained, “I don’t think anything is going to want to mess with her.”

He said the center is not even certain the visiting eagle is a male, noting it might even be “related by blood to the female,” because the local population of golden eagles is fairly small.

“Maybe they were just saying hello,” he said. “Maybe they’re long-lost brother and sister.”

Among the largest avian predators on Earth, golden eagles live for an average of 20 years in the wild, according to wildlife experts. The oldest bird in the wild reportedly lived for 32 years, and the oldest known golden eagle lived in captivity to the age of 46, according to University of Michigan Museum of Zoology Web site.


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