Photo by Irene Greenberg

Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)

Fun Fact

Golden Eagles are more closely related to hawks than to Bald Eagles, while Bald Eagles are more closely related to kites.

Etymology

Aquila is Latin for "an eagle." Chrysaetos is latin for "a golden eagle."

Conservation Status

IUCN Least Concern

Lifespan

Golden eagles can live up to 30 years or more in the wild. Captive birds can live for ~50 years.

Identification

Golden Eagles are the largest raptors in North America and have similar broad wings to that of a Red-tailed Hawk, but much longer. Adults are dark brown with a lighter brown or golden patch on the back of the head, giving them the name Golden Eagle. This lightened patch can be seen on our TRC Resident Raptor, Gus. In the first few years of life, young golden eagles have defined white portion on the base of the tail and within the wings. Immature Bald Eagles are often mistaken for Golden Eagles because they lack the white head and tail. Look at their legs, Bald Eagles have bald legs while Golden Eagles are "booted", meaning their feathers extend to their feet.

Gus, TRC's Resident Golden Eagle, photographed by Alan Sund

Gus, TRC's Resident Golden Eagle, photographed by Alan Sund

Golden Eagle by Cheryl Jones

Golden Eagle by Cheryl Jones

Length

70–84 cm (27.6–33.1 in)

Wingspan

1.8-2.2 m (6-7.21 ft)

Weight

3-7 kg (6 - 15lbs)

Distribution

Golden Eagles can be found as far north as Northern Canada and Alaska during the breeding season, and are rarely seen in the eastern U.S. They can also be found in Asia, Northern Africa and Europe. (Range map below)

Habitat

Mainly found in open to partially open grassland near mountains or other variable topography, such as that seen in the western portions of North America. Suitable habitat also includes desert, tundra, shrubland, farmland, coniferous forests and near rivers or streams.

Prey

The Golden Eagle diet consists mainly of small mammals such as jackrabbits and ground squirrels but they also hunt much larger mammals including mountain goats, coyotes, pronghorns and badgers. They will also rob other nests, feed on carrion, catch fish and steal food from other raptors.

Behavior

For being the largest raptor in North America, Golden Eagles are incredibly agile and quick, and have been clocked diving at speeds over 150 miles per hour. Most often, they are seen soaring and often hunt in pairs during the breeding season.

Breeding

Golden Eagles often stay with their partners for several years and sometimes mate for life. About 1-3 months prior to laying eggs, partners will begin to construct a nest, most often found in high places such as cliffs or tree tops. Both adults will take turns incubating eggs for 41-45 days and babies will then fledge after about 3 months.

Golden Eagle Range Map, Copyright Notice: © 2007 NatureServe, 1101 Wilson Boulevard, 15th Floor, Arlington Virginia 22209, U.S.A. All Rights Reserved.

Golden Eagle Range Map, Copyright Notice: © 2007 NatureServe, 1101 Wilson Boulevard, 15th Floor, Arlington Virginia 22209, U.S.A. All Rights Reserved.

Citation

InfoNatura: Animals and Ecosystems of Latin America [web application]. 2007. Version 5.0 . Arlington, Virginia (USA): NatureServe. Available: http://www.natureserve.org/infonatura. (Accessed: October 24, 2012 ).

Gus the Golden Eagle, by Becca Bredehoft

Gus the Golden Eagle, by Becca Bredehoft

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