Each fall the Bridger Raptor Festival in the Gallatin National Forest celebrates eagles, owls, and other raptors.
Each autumn, more than 1,500 golden eagles wing south along the Rockies, wafting on rising thermals over the 9,000-foot Bridger Mountains on their way from Alaska to Mexico. Sixteen other species of migrating raptors, including bald eagles, American kestrels, and red-tailed, Cooper’s, sharp-shinned, and rough-legged hawks, also flock to this area outside Bozeman, Mont.
Below them, in early October, another kind of gathering takes place: the 12th annual Bridger Raptor Festival at Bridger Bowl Ski Area in the Gallatin National Forest. Visitors young and old head for the hills to view the birds in flight; attendees indoors can enjoy lectures, raptor identification briefings, demonstrations with live eagles and owls, and raptor stories for children. A band plays bluegrass music on October 3.
"Participants can hike to the ridge and use binoculars to see the birds soaring overhead," says Doug Wales, a festival organizer, "and they can come inside and see a golden eagle up close and personal." (800) 223-9609, bridgerraptorfest.org.
Photography by Doug Wales
This article was first published in September 2009. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.