Golden EagleAquila chrysaetos

adult
Dale & Marian Zimmerman/VIREO
juvenile
Brian K. Wheeler/VIREO
juvenile (1st year)
Brian K. Wheeler/VIREO
juvenile (1st year)
Jorge Sierra/VIREO
juvenile (1st yr)
Brian K. Wheeler/VIREO
adult
Brian K. Wheeler/VIREO
adult
Laure W. Neish/VIREO

Description

This magnificent bird is widespread in the wilder country of North America, Europe, and Asia. About the same size as the Bald Eagle, the Golden is less of a scavenger and more of a predator, regularly taking prey up to the size of foxes and cranes. The Golden Eagle was important to many Native American tribes, who admired the eagle's courage and strength, and who ascribed mystical powers to the bird and even to its feathers.

Habitat

Open mountains, foothills, plains, open country. Requires open terrain. In the north and west, found over tundra, prairie, rangeland, or desert; very wide-ranging in winter, more restricted to areas with good nest sites in summer. In forested eastern North America, often hunts over marshes or along rivers.

Feeding Diet

Mostly small mammals. Typically preys on mammals ranging in size from ground squirrels up to prairie-dogs, marmots, and jackrabbits. May take smaller rodents (voles and mice) or larger animals such as foxes, young pronghorns, or young deer on occasion. Also eats birds, mostly gamebirds such as grouse but rarely birds as large as cranes or as small as sparrows. Also some snakes, lizards, large insects. Will feed on carrion, including dead fish.

Feeding Behavior

Searches for prey by soaring high or by flying low over slopes; also watches for prey from high perches. When prey is spotted, eagle plunges to capture it in talons. Members of a pair sometime hunt together, with the second bird capturing prey that evades the first.

Nesting

May mate for life. In courtship, 2 birds circle high in air, making shallow dives at each other. Display to defend territory includes repeated high flight followed by steep dives, loops, rolls, and other acrobatics. Nest site is most often on cliff ledge, also frequently in large tree, rarely on ground. Sites may be used for many years. A pair may have 2 or more alternate nest sites, using them in different years. Nest (built by both sexes) a bulky platform of sticks, lined with weeds, grass, leaves, moss. New material added each year, and nest may become huge. Eggs: 2, sometimes 1-3, rarely 4. Whitish to buff, marked with brown. Sometimes one egg in the clutch is unmarked. Incubation is by both parents (female does more), 41-45 days. Young: Female remains with young most of the time at first, while male does most hunting, bringing prey to nest. After young are half-grown, female also does much hunting. Age of young at first flight roughly 60-70 days.

Eggs

2, sometimes 1-3, rarely 4. Whitish to buff, marked with brown. Sometimes one egg in the clutch is unmarked. Incubation is by both parents (female does more), 41-45 days. Young: Female remains with young most of the time at first, while male does most hunting, bringing prey to nest. After young are half-grown, female also does much hunting. Age of young at first flight roughly 60-70 days.

Young

Female remains with young most of the time at first, while male does most hunting, bringing prey to nest. After young are half-grown, female also does much hunting. Age of young at first flight roughly 60-70 days.

Conservation

Has undoubtedly declined from historical levels, but current populations thought to be stable. May not be able to tolerate human disturbance near the nest.

Range

Northern birds are migratory, mostly moving late in fall and early in spring. In western United States and southwestern Canada, many adults may be permanent residents, but young birds may migrate south in fall.

Listen

calls of captive

Similar Species

adult

Turkey Vulture

A familiar sight in the sky over much of North America is the dark, long-winged form of the Turkey Vulture, soaring high over the landscape. Most birds are believed to have a very poor sense of smell, but the Turkey Vulture is an exception, apparently able to find carrion by odor.

adult male, dark morph

Rough-legged Hawk

Of our soaring Buteo hawks, this is the only one tied to cold climates. It nests in the Arctic, mostly in tundra regions north of the boreal forest; in winter, only a few move farther south than the central United States. Its breeding success on the tundra is often dictated by the population cycles of lemmings, which may provide most of the food for the young. The name "Rough-legged" refers to the feathering that extends down the legs to the base of the toes -- a helpful adaptation for staying warm in frigid weather.

adult

Bald Eagle

The emblem bird of the United States, majestic in its appearance. It is not always so majestic in habits: it often feeds on carrion, including dead fish washed up on shore, and it steals food from Ospreys and other smaller birds. At other times, however, it is a powerful predator. Seriously declining during much of the 20th century, the Bald Eagle has made a comeback in many areas since the 1970s. Big concentrations can be found wintering along rivers or reservoirs in some areas.

adult

California Condor

A holdover from prehistoric times, the great condor is one of our largest and most magnificent birds -- and one of the rarest. Soaring over wilderness crags, feeding on carcasses of large dead animals, reproducing very slowly, it was not well suited to survival in modern-day southern California. Headed toward extinction in the 1980s, the last birds were brought in from the wild in 1987, to be bred in captivity for eventual release into the wild again.

Vireo

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