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Everything You Wanted to Know About the Golden Eagle

I have always had an interest in nature and birds of prey in particular. Join me in learning about these majestic creatures.

The Golden Eagle in flight

The Golden Eagle in flight

Often overlooked and forced to play second fiddle to its more popular eagle brethren, the Golden Eagle is every bit as majestic and beautiful as the Bald Eagle.

Found throughout North America, Europe, Northern Africa, and Asia the Golden Eagle is much more widespread than the Bald Eagle and is found in more places worldwide than any other eagle species. As the largest Bird of Prey in North America, the Golden Eagle is at the top of the food chain and has few predators other than humans.

Description

The Golden Eagle is very large and can measure between 28 to 38 inches in length with a wingspan of up to 7.5 feet from tip to tip. As with other Birds of Prey the female is much larger than the male. Their weight will vary but larger female birds can weigh as much as fifteen pounds while males will average eight to ten pounds.

The plumage of the Golden Eagle is dark brown with a lighter golden band on the head and neck which gives the bird its name. Despite its size, the Golden Eagle is very nimble and can fly extremely fast at speeds of up to 150 miles per hour when diving at their prey. Like other birds of prey, the Golden Eagle is monogamous and mates for life.

Habits & Breeding

As would be expected of a bird the size of the Golden Eagle they build large nests which can measure up to seven feet in diameter. They prefer to build on cliffs or high up in a tree and these nests may be used for several years by a breeding pair.

The female will usually lay from one to four eggs with both parents sharing in the incubating duties. The incubation period will normally last from 40 to 45 days and the eggs will usually hatch a few days apart. The young eaglets will fledge in about twelve weeks or so. In many cases, only one or two chicks, usually the older ones, will survive. The advantage that the older chicks have being a few days older and bigger sometimes results in the younger chicks not getting sufficient food. Chicks that survive to fledge and hunt on their own can live for many years and the average life span of the Golden Eagle in the wild is up to thirty years. Young Golden Eagles will reach full maturity and complete adult coloration in about five years.

Golden Eagle nest with eaglets

Golden Eagle nest with eaglets

Diet

The Golden Eagle uses its large sharp talons while hunting to snare rabbits, squirrels, and marmots as well as other small mammals. They will also eat fish, other birds, snakes, and carrion if food is scarce. The Golden Eagle has reportedly even attacked larger animals such as deer and mountain goats, which shows its brazen, aggressive nature when hunting.

Habitat

The territory of a breeding pair is very large and can stretch for sixty square miles. In North America, the Golden Eagle is found from Mexico to as far north as Alaska. They are mostly found in the western parts of the United States but can be spotted in the east, usually during migration. They prefer the open areas of deserts, plateaus, and mountains and generally avoid heavily forested areas.

The Golden Eagle is found pretty much around the world in the northern hemisphere with populations across Europe, Northern Africa, and Asia. Golden Eagles can be found anywhere from the seashore to the arctic tundra to high mountain elevations.

While some Golden Eagles will migrate many others do not. It seems that the conditions of their particular geographic location determine this. Most Golden Eagles in Alaska and Canada will normally fly south for the winter while birds in Mexico and the western United States will maintain their ranges for the entire year.

Amazing Photo of The Golden Eagle in Flight

Stunning photo of the Golden Eagle with its amazing wingspan.

Stunning photo of the Golden Eagle with its amazing wingspan.

Status

The Golden Eagle is currently protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Although it is difficult to ascertain exact numbers the US Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that there are currently about 30,000 Golden Eagles across the United States. Worldwide population figures give an estimate of over 100,000 individuals.

The greatest threat to the Golden Eagle continues to be humans. Destruction of the Golden Eagles habitat through urbanization continues to challenge the species.

The perceived threat to ranchers from the Golden Eagle has also resulted in many being shot or poisoned although the protection now afforded to the Golden Eagle and education has diminished this threat. Today, most Golden Eagle deaths attributed to man come from power line electrocutions, collisions with vehicles, and wind turbine accidents.

North American range of the Golden Eagle

North American range of the Golden Eagle

Interesting Facts

  • Golden Eagles have been known to eat tortoises. They will drop the tortoise onto rocks in an effort to break the shell.
  • The Golden Eagle is more closely related to the Red Tailed Hawk than to the Bald Eagle.
  • The Golden Eagle is the national bird or animal of five nations, the most of any species; Mexico, Albania, Scotland, Austria, and Kazakhstan.
  • Eagles can rotate their heads 270 degrees just like the owl.
  • Golden Eagles are successful about 30% of the time when hunting.
  • In captivity, Golden Eagles can live 40 to 45 years. In the wild, they can live up to 30 years.
  • Golden Eagles shy away from populated areas, which is one reason why they are very uncommon in the eastern United States.
  • The Golden Eagle capital of the world with the highest concentration of nesting Golden Eagles worldwide is in Alameda County, California.
  • Golden Eagles have been known to fight off bears, cougars, and coyotes in defense of their young and their prey.
Golden Eagle in flight - What a beautiful bird.

Golden Eagle in flight - What a beautiful bird.

Do you have a favorite Bird of Prey?

© 2012 Bill De Giulio

Comments

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 22, 2014:

I do believe you are correct. Thank you Johan for the correction, I will change that right away. Thanks for stopping by and the heads up

JohanH from Netherlands on January 22, 2014:

Nice article! I would like to correct something: the national bird of Germany isn't the Golden Eagle, but it's the European sea eagle, also known as the White tailed eagle. (Haliaeetus albicilla)

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 10, 2013:

Hi Colin. Thank you once again. This time I have had the pleasure of meeting the bird lady of Boomer Lake, Deb, aka Aviannovice. And you are correct, she is the ultimate bird lady and bird expert here on HP's. With her new camera she is quickly becoming the master bird photographer also.

Many thanks Colin. I myself am late for work this morning. Have a great day.

epigramman on July 10, 2013:

Well Bill I am speechless once again - you have performed another miracle hub in front of my lucky eyes and I would like you to meet the ultimate bird lady - the lovely Deb and her name is AVIANNOVICE - and both of you will no doubt admire each other's hub immensely as I already do.

Every time you put out a new hub (or the old ones which I have yet to read) it seems like the ultimate labor of love on your part - hubbravo to you my friend and I just arrived home from night shift at lake erie time canada 5:35am and sending you warm wishes from Colin, Tiffy and Gabriel

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 02, 2013:

Hi Johan. Sooner or later I'll write a Hub on the Fish Eagle. Many thanks for taking the time to visit and comment. Have a great day.

Johan Smulders from East London, South Africa on May 02, 2013:

Great research and photos. My favorite is the Fish Eagle.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 01, 2013:

Hi Phoebe, Thanks for stopping by to read up on the Golden Eagle. I do have a hub on the Snowy Owl and they are also one of my favorites.

Phoebe Pike on April 30, 2013:

A very informative hub... I've always been a fan of the Snowy Owl myself, but this bird is also remarkable.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 12, 2013:

Hi habee. They are big. Most people don't realize just how big until they see one up close. Certainly a beautiful and amazing creature. Thanks for stopping by and the vote. Have a great day.

Holle Abee from Georgia on January 12, 2013:

Interesting hub! Golden eagles are really huge. One day I found my mom in her front yard trying to "shoo" one away with a broom. The eagle was snacking on one of her "pet" squirrels. I was afraid the bird would carry Mom away! lol. Voted up!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on October 23, 2012:

Hi Eddie, Thanks for stopping by. I know how you feel, done plenty of chasing myself down here in western Mass. Keep on chasing, sooner or late you'll get the perfect opportunity.

Eddie Carrara from New Hampshire on October 23, 2012:

bdegiulio,

Great hub, I have an affinity for birds of prey, not sure why, but even as a kid I have always been attracted to pictures and statues of bald eagles. I have been chasing a red tailed hawk with my camera for the last year and have got a few nice shots, but nothing like the one of your golden eagle in flight, WOW!! Keep up the awesome birds of prey series, love it!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 15, 2012:

Hi Alun. Thank you for the nice comments and vote. I've had a lot of fun with this series and hope to continue with it. They are all magnificent birds. Thanks again for sharing and pinning. Bill

Greensleeves Hubs from Essex, UK on July 15, 2012:

Bdegiulio;

This series on birds of prey which you have been compiling is really excellent - with comprehensive information, well written, and beautifully illustrated. I shall have to catch up with the ones I have missed, and hope there are a few more still to come!

Voted up in all relevent categories. Also pinned to my pinterest boards and shared. Alun.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 08, 2012:

Hi Johan. Thank you for the nice comments. Maybe I'll do the Fish Eagle next. Another beautiful Bird of Prey. Thanks again for stopping by to read.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 08, 2012:

Hi Christy. They certainly are. Lucky you to live in BC where you probably see eagles regularly. Thank you as always for reading and commenting.

Johan Smulders from East London, South Africa on July 08, 2012:

Great article and research and photos, Wow! My favourite in South Africa is the Fish Eagle.

Christy Birmingham from British Columbia, Canada on July 08, 2012:

What a magnificent creature! You outline the eagle well; I love when I see one in the sky.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 07, 2012:

Thanks chef-de-jour. Appreciate you reading and commenting. The Golden is pretty rare here in New England but we have seen them in Alaska. Would love to visit the Pyrenees someday to watch them. They are magnificent birds and they are vey large, a sight to behold. Thanks again. Have a great day.

Andrew Spacey from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK on July 07, 2012:

A wondrous bird. When I visit the Spanish Pyrenees I like to go high up with a pair of binocs and spy on these beautiful large birds. Over time I've learnt to distinguish them from the common griffon vultures that live up there - eagle has longer tail and a wider wing generally speaking and tends to be solitary, or rarely in pairs.

On warm days I've seen them join vulture spirals wheeling up on the warm air but sooner or later they end up in a skirmish!! They don't like each other!

Thanks for text and photos....spot on.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 07, 2012:

Hi Suzie. Many thanks again for your continued support. It's been great fun writing about these amazing birds. I hope to continue with the series so we'll see what pops up next. Thanks again, have a great day.

Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on July 07, 2012:

Another beautiful addition to your great series Bill, Loved this one also. You have a great style of engaging the reader from start to finish so serious CONGRATS my friend! What another beautiful and majestic bird. Love all your photo choices and interesting facts. Who knew the golden eagle could rotate its head 270 degrees! Voting across the board and sharing this awesome hub!:)

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 06, 2012:

Thanks Sheila. Very glad that you are enjoying this bird series. I've had a great time putting these together. Appreciate the nice comments and vote. Have a great day.

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on July 06, 2012:

I love your animal hubs and this series is excellent! You information is interesting and your choice of pictues is awesome! Voted up, awesome and sharing! Have a wonderful day!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 05, 2012:

Hi Lesley. Thank you. Always appreciate you taking the time to read and comment and certainly the vote up. Its been a lot of fun doing this series and I'm glad that you have enjoyed it. Have a great day.

Movie Master from United Kingdom on July 05, 2012:

Another excellent article in your bird of prey series, so well written and researched, I enjoyed reading thank you and voted up.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 04, 2012:

aviannovice. Thanks again for continuing to follow this series on Birds of Prey. We also came across one in Alaska, just beautiful. And yes they are bigger than the Bald Eagle. They are the largest Bird of Prey in North America. Simply amazing. Thanks again, have a great day.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 04, 2012:

dinkan53. Thank you for reading and commenting. Yes, they do occasionally eat tortoises by dropping them to break their shells. Smart Eagle!

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on July 04, 2012:

Excellent information on this wonderful bird. I met one once in PA at a wild bird rehabilitator conference. They are larger than a bald eagle.

dinkan53 from India on July 04, 2012:

Really a majestic bird. I don't know it is true or not, heard that some of the Golden Eagles eat tortoises by breaking their shells! Fantastic picture of Golden Eagle in flight. Rated up and interesting.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 04, 2012:

Thanks TT. My only siting of a Golden Eagle was in Denali NP in Alaska. It was an amazing site. Lucky you to get to see these beautiful birds on a regular basis. As always I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. Have a great 4th of July.

Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on July 04, 2012:

Beautiful hub, bd! Living in AK, I was able to see all of the majestic birds. In the spring, there's a valley north of Wasilla where you can go and watch all sorts of raptors gather and hunt as they migrate all over the state to nest. Very interesting hub! VUM!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 04, 2012:

Thanks moonlake. You are fortunate to be able to see both Golden and Bald Eagles in your area. We have a nesting pair of Bald Eagles on the Connecticut River here but no Golden Eagles. I have seen the Golden Eagle in Alaska and it was an amazing site, they are huge birds but very graceful in flight. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

moonlake from America on July 04, 2012:

We once saw a golden eagle around here. I don't know if he was just passing though or if he was here to stay. We have bald eagles in our yard off and on their always hanging around. Both are so beautiful. Enjoyed your hub. Voted Up

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 04, 2012:

Thanks Volitans. Appreciate you reading and commenting. Have a great day.

Volitans from Seattle on July 03, 2012:

Well-written and informative, nice pictures. Not a bird watcher, but I have always been fascinated by birds of prey.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 03, 2012:

Thank you Lenzy. Always appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. I've really enjoyed these Birds of Prey Hubs and hope to continue with the series. Thanks again and have a great day.

Lenzy from Arlington, Texas on July 03, 2012:

Hi Bedegiulio,

This is another well written and informative hub with beautiful photos. As a bird watcher, I enjoy seeing and hearing about the different birds of prey. Great job. Lenzy

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