A female northern harrier wheels above the Snake River Canyon in Idaho.
From high overhead, across an electric blue sky, comes the distinctive kee-kee-kee of a golden eagle. With a wingspan of nearly seven feet, it soars on spring thermals, scanning the dusty plateau for prey.
Idaho's high-desert scab land may appear inhospitable, yet the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, on a sage steppe 20 miles south of Boise, provides refuge for some 800 pairs of raptors that migrate here every year to mate, nest, and raise offspring.
Prime time to see 24 species including prairie falcons, northern harriers, ferruginous hawks, and great horned owls runs from early spring through June. To tour some of the area's 600,000 wild acres by car, start at the World Center for Birds of Prey to bone up on raptor identification, then follow Swan Falls Road south from Kuna to the Swan Falls Dam and Historic Exhibit.
On the way, stop at Dedication Point and walk the quarter-mile trail that leads to a dramatic overview of the Snake River Canyon. Keep your binoculars and a bird guide at the ready. (208) 384-3300, Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area (NCA).
Photography by Joshua Henson/Idaho Stock Images
This article was first published in May 2009. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.