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Golden eagles

Conservation > Wildlife Management > Migration and Movement > Birds and Bats Raptor Migration

We typically think of bird migration as "our birds" flying south for the winter.

And while many raptors like osprey and Swainson's hawks migrate south for the winter, several species that nest in Montana stay here year-round, like bald eagles, golden eagles, and great gray owls.

Additionally, every winter we more than double those populations of raptors moving through and overwintering across the state with migrants pouring in from the north. Raptors like golden eagles can travel thousands of miles from the northern extremes of Alaska all the way to Mexico. As thousands of eagles migrate each fall and spring, they create the "eagle highway" across Montana along the Rocky Mountain front from Glacier to Yellowstone. Having to make this arduous journey twice a year, successful migration and survival of these birds that can live over 30 years depends on adequate food availability, such as hunter-killed ungulates and gut piles during the fall migration.

With research from Montana showing 58% of nearly 200 migrant eagles and 95% of 91 wintering eagles tested with lead in their systems, the use of lead-free ammunition is important to safeguard this iconic species across Montana.

Golden Eagles

These are the movements on one golden eagle captured in Montana as it moved between summer and winter ranges. This bird has shown the longest distance recorded from summer to winter range of any eagle marked by RaptorView Research and used different pathways in spring versus fall.


Map of single golden eagle movements


RaptorView Research

An osprey captured and marked in 2018 by RaptorView Research Institute has captured the attention of many with it’s international, long-distance flights. ‘Boots’ the osprey was fitted with a backpack transmitter in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana and tracked to Cuba during it’s first fall migration. But the bird took an indirect path east through Wyoming and Nebraska, then north to Minnesota and finally south to the tip of Florida. From there it flew to Cuba for most of 2019 and the early part of 2020. During the first spring trip back north in 2020, Boots crossed 500 miles of open water over the Gulf of Mexico in 24 hours. The bird summered in southeast Idaho then headed south for the winter but choosing this time the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Boots flew back to Montana in the spring of 2021 using a completely different route. After attempting again to cross the Gulf of Mexico and being turned back by storms, Boots flew along the northern edge of the Yucatan Peninsula and then back to Montana along the spine of the Rockies.

Visit for an update on Boots and to learn about the path of many other raptors being tracked by the RaptorView Research Institute.


Map of single osprey movements

Additional Information

  • Sporting Lead-Free: Why using lead-free options for hunting and fishing are important, ballistics information, and more.

  • Learn more about Golden Eagles and migration.

Golden Eagles

Declining golden eagles concern researchers.

Every fall, Rob Domenich and his RaptorView Research team, travel to the Rocky Mountain Front to capture and band raptors. Roger's Pass is one of the nation's most active raptor migration routes, particularly for golden eagles.