Golden Eagle

Aquila chrysaetos

Majesty, beauty, and sheer physical power.

Golden Eagle

Length:

75cm to 88cm

Wingspan:

204cm to 220cm

Weight:

2.8kg to 6.6kg

What does a Golden Eagle look like?

The golden eagle is huge, with a long tail, and long, large wings often held raised in a shallow V when soaring and gliding. Wing tips are black with long, finger-like primaries noticeably splayed. Flight and tail feathers are basally grey with 3-5 broad, coarse, dark cross-bars. The crown and shaggy hind neck are washed in golden-yellow which contrasts against the dark brown mantle and back. Its large eyes are set back before a bony ridge that protects its vision from any errant swipe of prey animal paw or claw. Its massive, hooked bill is bluish with a yellow base. Legs are feathered. Young appear similar to adults but juveniles have patches of pure white on their wings or tail. Adult plumage is attained after 5-7 years.

Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle in flight

Did you know?

It is estimated that the golden eagle’s eyesight is 4-8 times better than that of humans. This means that they can spot prey on the ground at a distance of up to 2 miles away.

What does a Golden Eagle sound like?

Golden eagles are mostly silent but will sometimes emit yelping calls in a thin, fluty whistle.

Male Call

Tero Linjama, XC341722. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/341722.

What does a Golden Eagle eat?

When hunting, the golden eagle will usually fly low, dropping suddenly on its prey with its talons outstretched. Its food primarily consists of small mammals and birds, although it will also scavenge on carrion.

Where can I see Golden Eagles?

The golden eagle is a widespread, although never common, raptor of mountainous regions. In Britain, it is limited to the Scottish Highlands where it favours islands and remote glens. It can be seen at the RSPB reserves Glenborrodale and Corrimony all year round.

Golden Eagle

Did you know?

The largest known golden eagle nest in Britain was 4.6 metres deep and had been used for 45 years.

Signs and spotting tips

In winter and early spring, the golden eagle will perform aerial displays, with pairs cartwheeling through the air. The golden eagle will also sit in treetops for long periods on the lookout for prey.

How does a Golden Eagle breed?

Golden eagles have traditional territories and nesting sites that will be in use for generations. Golden eagles are monogamous and generally pair for life. This will happen after a courtship display, which involves a male picking up an object, dropping it and then diving through the air to catch it, the female will also repeat this action, but with a clump of mud. Golden eagle nest sites are called eyries, and pairs will usually establish 2 or 3 of these, mainly on cliff ledges. Both adults build a nest which consists of branches, twigs and heather. These structures can be 2 metres high, while nests in trees can be twice as big. The Female lays 2 eggs in March and incubates them for up to 45 days. She will do most of the incubating and feeding of the young, while the male provides her with food. Young will fledge once they reach around 70 days old. Sexual maturity is reached at 3-4 years of age.

Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle close up - JoanneJean / Shutterstock.com

How long do Golden Eagles live for?

Golden eagles can live for up to 38 years, although on average they have a lifespan of about 14 years.

Do Golden Eagles migrate?

Most populations of golden eagles are sedentary. In Britain, juveniles sometimes extend their range in the search of new territory. Ringed birds recovered in Scotland rarely travelled more than 30 miles from their natal site.

Golden Eagle

Threats and conservation

In Britain, golden eagles are listed as a Schedule 1 species. There are estimated to be 440 pairs. They still suffer from being poisoned or from having their nest robbed.

Similar birds to a Golden Eagle

Other birds in the Kites, hawks and eagles family