Golden Eagles Featured at Cody's Draper Natural History Museum

Golden eagles are known as the most powerful bird of the North American skies, but a ten year study shows us another animal might be keeping their population from thriving.

News 13's Elizabeth VanMetre introduces us to the surprising perpetrator and shows us some major studies that will reveal more about these large birds than we've ever known before.

Meet the golden eagle.

The bird of prey can grow three feet tall and carries a wingspan of 6 to 7 feet.

Their eyesight is sharp, their speed, can reach up to 150 miles per hour; striking their prey with bullet-like force.

Though powerful, this year isn't proving to be a good year for the bird.

Most are found in North America including Alaska and Canada.

Out of the 43 areas where the birds are monitored, only eight to ten are expected to reproduce, one reason, an unlikely culprit.

The golden eagle is the most powerful aerial predator in North America and while it's more than capable of eating deer or even wolves, they prefers cottontail rabbits, their population in the Big Horn Basin goes up and down.

Dr. Charles Preston, Senior Curator at the Draper National History Museum Center of the West shared, “Cotton tails tend to cycle in abundance over about a six to eight year period and as they cottontail goes, so does the golden eagle reproduction.

Dr Preston and his team have been looking closely at the golden eagle and its connection to the cottontail rabbit for ten years.

He will show his findings in the new exhibits at the Draper National History Museum, located at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

"It brings together science from across North America, really western North America from many research teams that have been collecting the same sort of data we have here in Wyoming’s Big Horn Basin."

But the correlations between predator and prey will just be one part of the exhibition.

Native American thunderbird petroglyphs, or art have been linked to golden eagles nesting areas.

That's an exciting find for anthropologist and scientist alike.

Bonnie Lawrence Smith, Curator Assistant for the Draper National History Museum shared, “These bird that are out there at these nesting site now where the rock art is, they could be direct descendants of the originally population that Native American were leaving these to."

The correlation between the golden eagles and the thunderbird rock art so far is one hundred percent.

The exhibit is an opportunity to showcase these magnificent birds in a way that everyone can find an interest.

The thing that's really exciting to me about the exhibition is first of all its inter-disciplinary.

It involves both the natural history and ecology of the golden eagle and the conservation, along with the cultural associations with Native Americans.

The exhibit is also a way for these birds to fluff their feathers and show their cousins, the bald eagle, who really is the king of the sky.

While a bad rabbit year is one reason scientist blame poor eagle reproduction this year, they also say the long cold winter and spring didn't help.

The new exhibition 'Monarch of the Skies: The Golden Eagle in Greater Yellowstone and the American West’ opened to guests on Sunday.