Golden Eagle or Golden Eagle - Characteristics, Conservation and Feeding

Golden eagle or golden eagle: find out what this animal is like, its physical characteristics, character, behavior, etc. The golden eagle, also known as the golden eagle, is...

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The golden eagle, also known as the golden eagle, is one of the most majestic birds in existence due to its size and large wingspan. Its scientific name is Aquila chrysaetos and it is a diurnal bird of prey, so it has perfect camouflage plumage and it is a truly voracious predator.

The golden eagle is present in different regions of the planet, so it is possible to see it in its natural habitat in flight, hunting or perched. In this AnimalPlanet fact sheet, we talk about the characteristics of the golden eagle, its size and wingspan, as well as its distribution and habits, such as how it feeds and reproduces.


  • Africa
  • America
  • Asia
  • Europe

Taxonomic classification of the golden eagle

Although this bird once inhabited almost every country in the northern hemisphere, populations today have declined significantly due to factors such as habitat destruction or scarcity of prey, which we we will discuss in more detail in the section on its state of preservation.

Regarding the taxonomic classification of the species, according to data provided by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)[1] it is as follows:

  • Reign: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Birds
  • Order: Falconiformes
  • Family: Accipitridae
  • Genre: Aquila
  • Species: Aquila chrysaetos

In addition, the following subspecies of Golden Eagle are currently recognized:

  • Aquila chrysaetos canadensis
  • Aquila chrysaetos chrysaetos chrysaetos
  • Aquila chrysaetos daphanes
  • Aquila chrysaetos homeyeri
  • Aquila chrysaetos japonica

Characteristics of the Golden Eagle

Classified as a large bird of prey, the largest in Spain and North America, the golden eagle has a wingspan of 185 to 220 cm and a length from head to tail of 70 to 90cm. Its weight varies between 3.8 and 6 kilos, the females being larger than the males, the latter rarely exceeding 4.5 kilos. It is a bird with long wings and a long tail, the latter measuring half the width of the wings. The size of the golden eagle is therefore quite impressive for its size.

In general, the plumage of the golden eagle is dark brown, although it has golden tones on the crown, neck and nape, which is one of its main characteristics. Similarly, the tail is gray-brown and the wings are brownish-gray. Younger specimens have lighter, almost white shades on the wingtips. The tail has a white band and black tips. Overall, juvenile golden eagles show much greater color contrast. However, as they grow, the lighter shades fade, giving an overall look of brown and brownish tones with the aforementioned golden areas. Adult plumage is reached between 4 and 6 years.

Another of the most representative characteristics of the golden eagle is the yellowish to dark brown tint of its eyes. The beak is robust, curved and black, with a yellow cere. The legs are also yellow and the strong, well-developed talons are black.

Distribution and habitat of the golden eagle

Golden eagles now cover almost all of the northern hemisphere and are distributed in Europe, Asia, North Africa and North America. In North America they are found from Alaska to Mexico, although in the latter country they are seriously threatened; a few individuals are also found in eastern Canada and the United States. In Europe, it has a stable presence in countries like Norway, Spain and Italy.

Some golden eagles are migratory birds and some are not. We do not always find the same number of specimens in all countries. In Spain, for example, it is a resident bird, that is, it does not migrate, being more common in areas such as the Guadalquivir depression, the two plateaus, as well as the main chains of mountains of the peninsula, being rare in Galicia and the Cantabrian Sea. Golden eagles that migrate do so in the fall and return home in the spring.Some eagles winter in the B altic countries, Ukraine, Russia and Finland.

Golden Eagle Habitat

As for the golden eagle's habitat, it tends to seek out high altitude areas, and it can be found up to 3,600 meters above sea level. It prefers open or semi-open areas, such as tundra, grasslands or scrub, although it also frequents coniferous forests. In general, it has a predilection for mountainous areas, which is why it is common on cliffs and high peaks.

Habits of the Golden Eagle

The golden eagle is usually a solitary animal or lives in pairs. Only the youngest specimens that have not reproduced, the adults that overwinter in very cold places or when food is abundant, live in small groups.

On the other hand, as we have already mentioned, some golden eagles migrate while others always stay in the same area.Those found in Alaska and Canada, for example, typically migrate south in the fall in search of food. Those who live in Spain, on the other hand, do not migrate.

An important aspect of this bird species is its flight. It beats its wings slowly most of the time, and performs more powerful beats, especially when hunting. However, it is a bird that tends to soar rather than fly. Likewise, in flight, it keeps its wings completely horizontal, unlike other birds of prey such as vultures. In terms of speed, it can reach up to 320 km/h, making it one of the fastest birds in existence.

Golden Eagle Feeding

The golden eagle is a great hunter. Like other raptors, it is capable of hunting prey as large as sheep, antelope or reindeer calves, adapting its diet to the availability of prey in its environment.However, the golden eagle's diet generally consists of small mammals, such as rabbits, squirrels, hares, prairie dogs or foxes, as well as other birds, fish or reptiles. last three to a lesser extent.

In times of scarcity, this bird may resort to carrion for food, although it may also feed on carrion after unsuccessful pursuit, for if after flying after its prey for a few hundred meters , he fails to catch it, the golden eagle gives up and looks for another alternative.

" The golden eagle can use different techniques to hunt its prey. For example, it often chases its prey close to the ground and, when it sees the right moment, it attacks and seizes it with its strong claws. Another hunting technique is the dive hunt, which involves descending rapidly in a dive to catch your prey. Although less common, some golden eagles also hunt in pairs, with one pursuing its prey until it is exhausted and the other catching it."

Reproduction of the golden eagle

These birds reach their sexual maturity between 4 and 7 years old, when they show their adult plumage. Golden eagles are monogamous birds, so they keep their mates for life. In fact, eagles that do not migrate usually live in pairs. Those that migrate live alone and studies are insufficient to guarantee that they keep the same pair during the breeding season. In any case, they both take care of the chicks, the construction of the nest and its maintenance.

The breeding season for migratory golden eagles is between February and April. To mate, they perform a courtship display in which one or both members of the pair perform wavy flights, chase each other, show their talons, circle and fly together. Non-migratory birds breed between March and August, although in this case courtship and nest building may begin months earlier.

It is common for them to build several nests in their territory and even reuse nests from previous years. Generally, these nests are found in rocky areas such as cliffs and rarely in trees. Both members of the pair participate in building or restoring the nests, which are made of branches, leaves, moss, grasses or wool and are large in size, up to 1.5 meters in diameter and up to 2 meters in height. Their construction normally takes 4 to 6 weeks. Interestingly, the largest golden eagle nest found was 6 meters high and almost 3 meters in diameter.

Hatching of golden eagle chicks

The clutches are usually between 1 and 4 white eggs with brownish and reddish spots, which will be cared for by the mother until the chicks hatch after 35-45 days, although the male may also participate in incubation at some point.

Both parents bring food to the young, but they are mainly raised by the mother. From the age of 45 days, the chicks begin to leave the nest by walking or hopping, but it is not until the age of 10 weeks that they begin to fly. They usually become independent from parents between 32 and 80 days after feather growth, which occurs at around 3 months of age.

State of conservation of the golden eagle

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the golden eagle is classified as a species of least concern and its population is stable in most of the regions it inhabits. In 2016, when the last report was published, it was estimated that there were between 100 and 200,000 individuals worldwide. However, in some areas it is considered an endangered species and its population is declining, such as in Mexico and the United States.

Although its population is considered stable, the golden eagle is a protected bird and is on the list of wildlife species under special protection.The main threats to this species are habitat destruction, poaching and climate change. They are also animals that tend to easily leave their nests if they feel intimidated or disturbed, so it is essential not to visit them during the breeding season.

Photos of Golden Eagle or Golden Eagle

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