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