Golden eagle stoop at Sunol

Wendy Parfrey

Good morning, birders

Yesterday in Sunol we watched a golden eagle, high in the cloudy sky soaring in broad, leisurely circles.  At least a dozen rotations and not one wingbeat.  Slow, measured, powerful circles. 

Suddenly the eagle folded its wings and entire body into a tiny dark origami box with four small corners and stooped in a spectacular angled descent into a canyon.  

I've been to falconry trials and watched peregrine falcons exhibit their dramatic stoop - this was every bit as spectacular.  Having now researched 'golden eagles stoop', eagles might be less agile than peregrines, but can reach speeds of 150-200 mph and are considered one of the earth's fastest animals in a stoop. The behavior is territorial and also to surprise prey.

In fact, this behavior is immortalized in a famous 6-line poem:

The Eagle by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1851)

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;

 Close to the sun in lonely lands,

 Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;

 He watches from his mountain walls,

 And like a thunderbolt he falls.


Wendy Parfrey

Oakland Hills