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Birds of Prey: The Golden Eagle

Updated on March 12, 2017
The Golden Eagle in flight
The Golden Eagle in flight | Source

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 is 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.

The Golden Eagle
The Golden Eagle | Source

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 | Source

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.

The Golden Eagle
The Golden Eagle | Source

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. | Source

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 man. 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 | Source

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. | Source

Do you have a favorite Bird of Prey?

If so, let me know.

See results

© 2012 Bill De Giulio

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    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      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

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      JohanH 3 years ago from Netherlands

      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)

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      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 profile image

      epigramman 3 years ago

      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

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      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 profile image

      Johan Smulders 3 years ago from East London, South Africa

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

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      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.

    • profile image

      Phoebe Pike 3 years ago

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

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      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.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 4 years ago from Georgia

      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!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      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.

    • eddiecarrara profile image

      Eddie Carrara 4 years ago from New Hampshire

      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!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      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 profile image

      Greensleeves Hubs 4 years ago from Essex, UK

      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.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      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.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      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 profile image

      Johan Smulders 4 years ago from East London, South Africa

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

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

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

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      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.

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 4 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      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.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      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.

    • Suzie HQ profile image

      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      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!:)

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      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.

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      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      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!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      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 profile image

      Movie Master 4 years ago from United Kingdom

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

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      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.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

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

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      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 profile image

      dinkan53 4 years ago from India

      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.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      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.

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 4 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      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!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      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 profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      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

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

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

    • Volitans profile image

      Volitans 4 years ago from Seattle

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

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      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 profile image

      Lenzy 4 years ago from Arlington, Texas

      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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