Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles are two of the most commonly known and searched eagles in the world. Both are related to the Accipitridae family (kites, hawks and eagles), but they sit under different groups. This article will highlight the main differences between the bald eagle and the golden eagle to help you identify and learn more about these majestic birds.
Adult bald and golden eagles do not look similar and are easy to distinguish, as the bald eagle has a white head and tail, and the golden eagle has a dark brown head and tail. Juvenile bald eagles do, however, look extremely similar to golden eagles as they lack a white head and tail. One of the ways to tell the difference between the two is juvenile bald eagles have patchy white or tawny on their plumages, mainly under their underparts, under the wings and tails. The tail of a golden eagle is not patchy, and they lack any extensive white on the wing and body.
There are many other differences as well, which we'll go into more detail below.
Juvenile Bald Eagle
Golden Eagle in flight
Both the bald and golden eagles are very large raptors and are both similar in size, making it extremely hard to distinguish between the two by just looking at the birds. As with many birds of prey, females are the larger of the sexes and can be up to 25% larger than males.
The average length for a golden eagle is between 70 - 99cm. The wingspan is between 185 - 222cm and weighs between 2,387 - 6,460g (2.3 - 6.4kg).
The average length for a bald eagle is between 71 - 96cm and has a wingspan between 168 - 244cm. The average weight is anywhere from 3,000g - 6,300g (3 - 6.3kg).
Bald Eagle in flight
No, golden eagles have stronger and more powerful talons than those of the bald eagle. This is because golden eagles generally hunt bigger prey than the bald eagle, who usually have diets of fish, carrion and terrestrial mammals, such as hares and muskrats. Golden Eagles, on the other hand, generally take intermediate size prey anywhere up to 4kg in mass.
Golden Eagles are mostly solitary birds and are therefore mostly seen on their own, or in a pair during the breeding season. Bald Eagles are much more sociable and tolerate other species of birds. However, Bald Eagles are highly competitive with other bald eagles so will not usually tolerate them.
So generally speaking, you're very unlikely to see golden and bald eagles together.
The golden eagle can reach diving speeds of up to 200mph (322km/h), whereas the bald eagle can reach speeds of half that at 100mph (160km/h).
Golden Eagles have the second-fastest dive speed of any bird in the world. The only faster bird is the peregrine falcon which can reach incredible diving speeds of 244mph (389km/h).
71cm to 96cm
168cm to 244cm
3kg to 6.3kg
Bald Eagle Call
Davyd Betchkal, XC192236. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/192236.
75cm to 88cm
204cm to 220cm
2.8kg to 6.6kg
Tero Linjama, XC341722. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/341722.