The golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) is a member of the Booted or True Eagles family. Golden eagles can be found throughout much of the northern hemisphere. It lives in mountainous areas, prairie coulees, and other places where rugged terrain creates abundant updrafts.
Size - Length of about 3 feet (.92m). Weighing up to 15 pounds (7kg), with a wing span of up to 7 feet (2m).
Color - Adult golden eagles are brown with tawny on the back of the head and neck; tail faintly banded.
One way to distinguish a golden eagle from an immature bald eagle is leg plumage. A golden eagle's legs are entirely feather covered; an immature bald eagle's lower legs are bare. As seen while in flight, juvenile golden eagles have white patches at the base of the primaries; the tail is white with a distinct dark terminal band. It takes four years to acquire adult plumage.
Range - Golden eagles are more widely distributed than any other eagle. Other than North America, golden eagles can be found in Europe, North Africa and Asia.
Territory - The golden eagle is a solitary bird, which can be found in remote areas. They do not congregate in large numbers during the winter.
Being a great hunter, the golden eagle seldom eats carrion. Its hunting territory extends up to 162 square miles (260 square km)
Nesting - Golden eagles mate at about four years of age, and often stay paired with the same mate for life.
They prefer to nest on rocky crags or slicer cliff faces, although they will occasionally build a nest in a tree, often returning annually to the same nest.
Females lay a clutch of one to three eggs, once a year. Most males do not share in the 41 to 45 days of egg incubation, but will bring food to the female. Both parents share the responsibilities of raising the young.
Chicks - The eaglets weigh only three ounces when they are born. The young eaglets stay in the nest for nine to eleven weeks before they fledge. Bald eagles are larger than golden eagles in average height and wingspan, but there isn't much difference in average weight. One way to distinguish a golden eagle from an immature bald eagle is leg plumage. A golden eagle's legs are entirely feather covered; an immature bald eagle's lower legs are bare. As seen while in flight, juvenile golden eagles have white patches at the base of the primaries; the tail is white with a distinct dark terminal band. It takes four years to acquire adult plumage. Adult golden eagles are brown with tawny on the back of the head and neck; tail faintly banded.
Migration - Some golden eagles live in their nesting territory all year. Others may migrate due to lack of food during the winter. They do not have to migrate large distances, because of their excellent hunting abilities.
Symbol - The golden eagle is Mexico's national bird.
Immature golden eagle
Lifespan - Fifteen to twenty years.
Diet - Groundhogs, marmots, foxes, skunks, cats, rabbits, grouse, ground squirrels, crows, pheasants, meadowlarks, tortoises, and snakes.
Golden eagles escaped the plague of DDT contamination, because their diet consists of small grass-eating mammals. However, deliberate poisoning, shooting, and trapping of golden eagles continues today, despite laws protecting them. The motivations behind this may be a misguided attempt to protect livestock or an intentional effort to obtain feathers for sale on the black market.
Doris Mager, the "Eagle Lady" from Florida, received a young female golden eagle that had been the result of the artificial insemination of its mother. (Artificial insemination is often used in captive breeding programs for birds of prey; it is usually done with birds that are tame.) The bird lived with Doris for fifteen years and was the star of her bird-of-prey show until it died in 1996. Doris took this show to schools around the nation to teach people about the various birds of prey and their conservation. This golden eagle was probably seen by more Americans than any other eagle, even more than Old Abe, the famous Civil War bald eagle from Wisconsin.
Golden eagles are protected in the United States through the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Possession of a feather or other body part is a felony with a fine of up to $10,000 and/or 10 years in prison, although federally recognized Native Americans are able to possess these emblems which are traditional in their culture.
USGS Effects of Management Practices on Grassland Birds: Golden Eagle
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