The high desert ecosystem and rocky cliffs of the Reserve provide excellent habitat for many birds of prey, including Golden Eagle, Prairie Falcon, Red-Tailed Hawk, Swainson's Hawk, Northern Harrier, Sharp-Shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, American Kestrel, and Great-Horned Owl. Bald eagle and Ferruginous Hawk are also observed in winter, but with less frequency. Other bird species of interest include Turkey Vulture, Sage Grouse, Pinyon Jay, Clark's Nutcracker, Common Nighthawk, Cliff Swallow, Mountain Bluebird, Mountain Chickadee, Rock and Canyon Wrens, Green-Tailed Towhee, Virginia's Warbler, Western Tanager and Lazuli bunting.
Within City of Rocks and Almo Valley, 142 species have been documented, and are included on the Reserve's bird checklist. Just about anywhere in the Reserve or Castle Rocks State Park is a great place to watch birds. Select birding hotspots for details about the best areas and a map.
photo by Wallace Keck
Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus)
The Rough-legged Hawk has a body length of 18 - 23 inches, a wingspan of 4 - 4 1/2 feet, and weighs 1 1/2 - 3 pounds. This hawk spends the summer in the tundra and extreme northern taiga, and the winter in open lowland areas of prairies, marshes, and agricultural area across North America. The rough-legged hawk is quite common in the winter months, but rarely seen any other time.
photo by Wallace Keck
Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)
Sightings of Golden Eagles are rare, but do occur. Golden Eagles use their agility and speed combined with extremely powerful talons to snatch up prey including rabbits, marmots, ground squirrels, and large mammals such as foxes, and young deer. They will also eat carrion if prey is scarce, as well as reptiles. They maintain a territory of apporximately 60 square miles. They are also monogamous, staying with their partner for several years, or even life.
Did You Know?
The Twin Sisters in City of Rocks National Reserve are made up of different rocks. The darker sister is made of granite that is 2.5 billion years old and is some of the oldest rock in the Lower 48 states. The lighter sister is made of granite from a younger formation that is 25 million years old.