Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle

Key facts

Scientific name: Aquila chrysaetos

Status: Resident breeding species

Breeding birds: 440 pairs

Conservation status: Ambe

Length: 70 – 84 cm

Wingspan: 185 – 220 cm

Weight: 3 – 6.4 kg

Description

Golden eagles have dark brown upper parts with pale tipped feathers on the median coverts. Their flight feathers are grey with darker inner webs. They have darker underparts and on the underwing the small coverts are reddish-brown, while the median coverts are darker. 

Their wings are broad and rectangular and the tail which has a grey base barred with brown and a dark brown terminal band, is broad with a rounded tip. 

Golden eagles have a dark brown face, forehead, and fore crown and a golden-brown hind crown, nape, and neck. 

They have blueish-grey strongly hooked bill with a black tip, and a yellow cere and gape. Their eyes are yellow or golden, and their legs are covered in dark brown feathers. Their feet are yellow with strong, black, curved claws. 

Female golden eagles are similar to the male, but slightly larger. 

Juveniles are dark chocolate-brown, with white bases to the flight feathers. Their tails have a white base and dark brown terminal band, and their eyes are darker than adults. Full adult plumage is reached at about 6-8 years. 

Nesting

Golden eagles breed from abut May. They nest on cliffs and ledges as well as tall trees. They build their nests from large twigs and branches and line it with moss, bark, fur and other soft material. Nests can measure up to 3 m across and new material is added each year. 

Golden eagles usually 2 whitish eggs with cinnamon brown spots but has been known to lay up to 4.

They are incubated mostly by the female for 43-45 days but occasionally the male. Chicks are fed by both parents – the male brings the prey to the nest and the female feeds them.  The young fledge at 72-84 days but rely on their parents for another 3 months.

The youngest chick often dies, killed by attacks from its older siblings. 

Feeding

Golden eagles have a varied diet comprising mammals such as rabbits, mice and foxes, other birds including game birds and snakes. They will also feed on carrion.

Golden Eagle

Where to see them

Golden eagles can be seen all year round in the open moorlands and mountains of Scotland. There are also a few golden eagles living in North West England.

Listen

Lauri Hallikainen/xeno-canto

Did you know?

Golden eagles will eat tortoises, cracking the shell by dropping them from a great height so they can access the meat inside.

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