The subject line pretty well says it all. I'm still in shock and was definitely not expecting this, but with 3 days of strong NW winds and an early morning Kestrel perched in the backyard, I went out back after eating on my lunch hour with the binoculars and scope. I began scanning the portions of the sky I can see in hopes of spotting a Broad-winged or Cooper's Hawk migrating. I spotted Black Vultures and a distant Wood Stork and while watching them saw another large bird on a slow glide into the wind beneath them. Eagle… but something seemed odd with the wing profile. 

I followed it with the bins for a while as it drifted into the wind giving me only a side view with mostly tucked wings. I noted white at the tail base but not much else in the binocs so dashed over for the scope. Happily the bird stayed on the same trajectory and I was able to relocate it easily in the scope. Now I could see the tail pattern on this fairly distant was white basally with a darker tip. I knew that a 4 year old Bald eagle would show a similar pattern, but was getting no white off the head and head projection seemed more compact. However, the wrists were thrust forward and it was distant so I just continued following it. It drifted just along the roofline on the house next door going in and out of sight as it continued to the west. It finally cleared the roof though and did two quick circles, showing the diagnostic white crescents at the base the middle primaries, the cleanly separate dark tail tip, and broader, rounded secondaries.

After two circles, it went back into a glide disappearing below the brush of the surrounding lots. I ran inside and grabbed 2 cameras, and went up onto the roof with spotting scope, bins, cameras, etc. Waited another 30 minutes but nada. All of the soaring birds I did see Vultures, storks, & a migrating Kestrel drifted nearly due West into the wind (the same way the Eagle disappeared after about 2 minutes of viewing).

UNREAL!!! The first Golden Eagle I'd ever seen in the state and in my yard on a whim no less!!!!!!! Still pumped about it! Sadly, given the habitat nearby, and the perfect migrating conditions I doubt this is a chasable or local bird, but the conditions that brought this bird here and are causing a big raptor flight at the Florida Keys Hawkwatch today still exist, so get out and look up! For the benefit of those looking though, I last saw the bird heading west likely over the intersection of Midway Blvd & Edgemere Drive. I will also add that young Goldens can show varying amount of white at the base of the primaries, & this bird was at the darker end of that spectrum with more reduced white here; perhaps only an inch or so wide and extending to maybe only 4 feathers. Sometimes this white can be very extensive, but this individual was definitely on what I'd describe as at the darker extreme albeit still plainly visible.

Good birding,

Jeff Bouton
Port Charlotte, FL

PS - I know EXACTLY how rare this bird is and am typically one of the harshest critics of GOEA reports knowing how confusing some BAEA plumages can be but in this case the rare bird was real. Sad I was ill-prepared to get photos, but elated I was even lucky enough to see it. Definintely my best yard bird by far!!!!

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