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Golden Eagle Fact File

Aquila chrysaetos

Weight

3-6.5kg

(6.5-14lbs)

Length

75-90cm

(29.5-35.5in)

Lifespan

Wild 38 years

Captive 50 years

Diet

Carnivore

Mammals, Carrion

Conservation Status

IUCN

Least Concern

Golden eagles are large, powerful owls which have a broad range covering North America, Asia, Europe and Africa.

Their powerful wings lift them in to the air where they use air currents to remain airborne with little effort. This allows them to fly in and seize prey from behind which is gripped with their strong claws.

A pair come together to form a nest out of large sticks. This is reused to raise their chicks each year and can grow to be massive in size.

Multiple countries across the globe have listed the golden eagle as their National bird.

Learn more about these brilliant birds by reading on.

Appearance

The golden eagle is a powerful bird of prey with dark brown feathers across most of the body except for the white patches at the base of the wings primaries. Their name is derived from the golden nape which can be seen at the correct angle.

Around 7000 feathers are found across the body of the golden eagle.

They have a black bill and at the base of the beak is the yellow cere. This bill is deep and hooked to aid in catching prey. Their feet are yellow with black claws. On the legs they have feathers all the way to the toes.

They have great eyesight from their large eyes. To prevent damage to these their is a bony ridge over the eye. A clear eyelid covers the eye to protect it from dust and dirt.

They have long wings with a span of between 1.9 and 2.2m across. These provide lift to get them in to the air. To increase lift the wing tips are slotted and resemble fingers.

An average golden eagle will have a body length of between 75 and 90cm (29.5-35.5in) long. Females tend to be much larger than males. The females weigh in at 5.3kg (11.7lbs) while males come in at 3.7kg (8lbs).

Diet


Golden eagles are carnivores. They feed on mammals, reptiles and birds. Prey up to the size of a goose or deer may be consumed. Their large range means a wide variety of foods are consumed.

Carrion is consumed and is most often used during winter. Their large hooked bill is used to tear apart larger prey.

Prey is attacked from behind with the bird swooping in towards them.

Golden eagles are able to eat tortoises despite their hard shell. They will carry the tortoise over a rocky outcrop and then drop it which splits the shell.

Pairs may work together when hunting. One will drive prey towards the other which is waiting to attack.

Following a successful kill a golden eagle can wait several days before its next meal.

Golden Eagle

Range

The golden eagle has a wide range which covers parts of North America, Asia, Europe and Africa.

They have become extinct in Ireland.

Habitat

Golden eagles are primarily found in open areas on mountain faces, plateaus or steppe. They also inhabit prairie, scrub, desert or tundra.

In northern areas of North America and Asia they will complete a migration to the south for winter.

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Reproduction

The breeding season is highly variable across their extensive range. It may occur anytime from January to September.

Pairs will remain together for life. Courtship sees the two birds soaring together, completing switchback undulations and stoops.

Their nest is built on a cliff edge or in a tree. Across their life they can have several nests but some are used year after year. Known as an eyrie their nest may eventually grow to be 4m (13ft) deep. It is formed from sticks. Both members of the pair work to build the nest.

These birds deposit up to 2 eggs in their nest with one clutch raised each year. These eggs are incubated for between 43 and 45 days. Chicks are known as eaglets.

While two eggs are laid it is most common for the older, larger chick to attack its younger sibling.

The parents will tear food in to strips to feed them. They will provide food for several months after the chicks fledge which occurs at 50 days old.

Young individuals have a dull appearance compared to an adult with a white-band on the tail and a white patch on each wing. As they grow and molt they will lose these features.

Sexual maturity is reached between 3 and 4 years old.

Behavior

During the day golden eagles have great eyesight allowing them to find food from a distance away. At night their eyesight is not much better than ours. They may spot prey as far away as 3km (2miles).

While the eyes do not move much in the socket they are able to rotate the head up to 270 degrees allowing them to see.

During a dive a golden eagle may reach speeds of up to 193km (120 miles).

While often listed as solitary they may remain in small groups year round. Breeding pairs may live together year round in a territory which they defend against invasion.

For much of the year the golden eagle is considered quite but will make a shrill high-pitched noise during the breeding season. They can also produce a chrip, cluck, hiss or honk.

Golden Eagle

Predators and Threats

Adults face few natural predators though they are harassed by birds such as jays and other raptors. Chicks are hunted by wolverines and grizzly bears.

Golden eagles have faced persecution by ranchers which saw them as threat to sheep and other livestock.

In North America the golden eagle received federal protection in 1962.

These birds are inadvertently killed when they land on power lines or by flying in to wind turbines. They may be attracted to these through the strong winds.

Secondary poisoning through eating bait or lead shots which are in their prey. Declines in prey availability such as rabbits further impact on their survival.

Habitat loss has been identified as one of the most significant influences on their decline.

These birds faced major threats throughout their range during the 19th century. Recently their populations has stabilized. In parts of their range they are still declining.

In parts of central Asia the golden eagle is used in falconry.

Quick facts

Albania, Austria, Germany, Kazakhstan and Mexico all list the golden eagle as their national bird.

They are the most widespread species of eagle in the genus Aquila.

The chrysaetos portion of their scientific name means gold eagle.

A former tale suggested that the golden eagle would steal infants from their cribs.

Golden Eagle

Photo Credits

Top

Jarkko Järvinen, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Middle One

Rocky, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Middle Two

Michael Gäbler, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Bottom

Juan lacruz, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

References

Christiansen, P., 2019. Birds. London: Amber Books Ltd.

Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Ambrose, J., 2015. Wildlife Of The World. 1st ed. London: Dorling Kindersley

BirdLife International. 2016. Aquila chrysaetos. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22696060A93541662. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22696060A93541662.en. Downloaded on 27 May 2021.

Animals.sandiegozoo.org. 2021. Golden Eagle | San Diego Zoo Animals & Plants. [online] Available at: <https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/golden-eagle> [Accessed 27 May 2021].

Peregrinefund.org. 2021. Golden Eagle | The Peregrine Fund. [online] Available at: <https://www.peregrinefund.org/explore-raptors-species/eagles/golden-eagle> [Accessed 27 May 2021].

Seaworld.org. 2021. Golden Eagle Facts and Information | SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. [online] Available at: <https://seaworld.org/animals/facts/birds/golden-eagle/> [Accessed 27 May 2021].

Audubon. 2021. Golden Eagle. [online] Available at: <https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/golden-eagle> [Accessed 27 May 2021].

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Golden_Eagle/id

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