Photo: David H Webster/Flickr Creative Commons

Golden Eagle

Aquila chrysaetos

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.
Conservation status Has undoubtedly declined from historical levels, but current populations thought to be stable. May not be able to tolerate human disturbance near the nest.
Family Hawks and Eagles
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.
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.
Photo Gallery
  • adult
  • juvenile
  • juvenile (1st year)
  • juvenile (1st year)
  • juvenile (1st yr)
  • adult
  • adult
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.


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.

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.


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.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Migration

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.

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Migration

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.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A high-pitched kee-kee-kee; also a high scream or squeal, but usually silent.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.