Bald eagles thrive in Colorado while golden eagles face rising threats around West

Bald eagles are popping out in healthy numbers around Colorado, where historically they were rare, a dramatic adaptation that lifts spirits. State wildlife biologists once deemed such a comeback impossible. Damming rivers to form reservoirs lured geese, created cottonwood nesting habitat and put water year-round in the South Platte River, which otherwise ran dry in late summer.

Using the deadly pesticide DDT was banned. Bald eagles augmented their fish-and-fowl diet by snapping up prairie dogs. And bald eagles proved increasingly resilient amid rapid urbanization.

But new survival struggles loom for their golden eagle cousins. Traditionally far more abundant, golden eagles face intensifying threats — from drought, wind-power turbines, the oil and gas boom and rampant foothills homebuilding that disrupts foraging.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials estimate there are more than 115 breeding pairs of bald eagles statewide. Roughly five new nests are documented each year, some on the busy Front Range.

"To have bald eagles come back in numbers where you can see them on a regular basis, that's an amazing thing — a bird that was going extinct," Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory staff biologist Jeff Birek said. "Among things in nature that bring awe and wonder to us, eagles are at the top of the list. They're magnificent. They represent a wildness we long for in today's society."

Read more about the threats facing golden eagles and the effort to save them, from our partners at the Denver Post: