Golden Eagle photo by Brian Davies

Golden Eagle

A very large, dark to medium-brown bird with a golden head and nape. Females are larger than males, though plumages are similar. The entire upperside of the adult bird is dark brown, underside a slightly paler brown, with a buffy color on the legs, which are feathered to the yellow feet. Irregular, indistinct dark gray bands on tail. Head is relatively smaller than that of a Bald Eagle; the eyes are hazel to dark brown; the beak is dark. It takes four years and several molts for these birds to reach maturity. Juvenile birds have broader wings and longer tails than adults as well as plumage differences, including patterns of whitish areas on the feathers, and a tail pattern of a distinctive broad white band and terminal black band. In flight, the wingbeats are strong, slow, shallow, and smooth. Golden Eagles soar in a slight dihedral, glide with wingtips up, and can dive on prey at speeds up to 200 mph.

 

Meet our resident Golden Eagles:

Amazon fell from her nest at about one month of age in June 1995. She broke both her wings and wasn't found quickly. Her right wing healed perfectly, but the left wing, which had an open fracture and other complications, did not. Her injuries left her incapable of flight. She has been an amazing contribution to the Cascades Raptor Center education team. Amazon enjoys a multitude of enrichment items (canvas footballs, over-grown vegetables and her dog toy stuffed with llama wool). Using her powerful talons, she destroys her enrichment items and keeps volunteers and staff busy finding new and interesting items that meet her needs. Amazon is part of the training as enrichment team.

Adoptive "Parents" of Amazon:

Deborah Garlin & Hayden Northcutt  •  An Admiring Friend
Diane Hunter and Joan Hedgpeth

Dante hatched in the Mendocino National Forest of Northern California in summer of 2016. He contracted West Nile Virus as a nestling and was treated at the California Foundation for Birds of Prey. The virus left him with permanent visual deficits. Golden Eagles are visual hunters who can reach speeds of 200 MPH during pursuit of jack rabbits and other small mammals which are their main prey. Dante enjoys his daily training sessions and is very enthusiastic about many enrichment items. Dante is part of the Program Team.

Adoptive "Parents" of Dante:
Oregon Pacific Bank  •  John and Ganun LaDuke
Richard and Dayna Wenzel  •  Patricia Wheeler
John Wilson  •  The Horrell Family  •  Robert Stephenson
Oregon Eye Consultants  •  Galen Kozicki

Notes

Scientific Name

Aquila chrysaetos

Size

Length: 27-33"

Wing Span: 72-87"

Weight: 6.6-14 lb.

Status

State and federally protected both under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, as are all native birds, and the Bald and Golden Eagle Act.

Habitat

Open mountainous regions of the west, including high deserts, rangelands, canyonlands, tundra, alpine areas, open woodlands, to southwestern deserts. Often distant from water, and from low elevations up to 8,000 feet. Uses open areas in any season for hunting; in breeding season needs suitable cliffs, bluffs, rocky outcrops or trees for nesting.

Diet

Golden Eagles eat a variety of small to medium-sized mammals up to the size of deer fawn, and also take gamebirds, snakes, lizards. Almost all prey is captured on the ground. They will eat carrion, but only rarely attack healthy large mammals. These eagles will take dead or dying lambs, and for this reason are often harassed by ranchers.

Call

Usually quiet, but has a variety of calls: an occasional kya...kya...kya in flight; a weak high series of kee-yep, keeyepgreeting between mates; a strong, screaming kikikikiki alarm call.

Nesting

Enormous stick nests are built on rocky crags, cliffs, and in trees in some areas. Some mated pairs return to the same nest each year, others alternate between several nests. The same nests can be used over many generations of eagles, growing larger each year. If the location allows it, the nest can become really gigantic -- as much as 8 to 10 feet across by 3 to 4 feet deep.

Most Common Problems

Collision with vehicles; electrocution and hitting power lines, especially in the dry habitat these large birds inhabit where trees are scarce and power poles can provide a good hunting perch. Poisonings: lead poisoning from lead shot mammals they might scavenge, rodenticides used to kill prairie dogs or other ground-dwelling mammals whose burrows are deemed a hazard to livestock, and poisoned bait for control of coyotes.

Found throughout the Northern Hemisphere in open montane areas. In North America, ranges from Alaska and Canada south throughout the western US, down into central Mexico. Migratory over the coldest northern parts of its range.

 

Special Thanks for range maps:

Dan Gleason
BGleason Design & Illustration
Commercial & Scientific Illustration, Graphic Design
CraneDance Communications
Book Production/Design