The Golden Eagle
The Golden Eagle has been called the ‘King of birds” and is one of the best known and most powerful birds of prey. 30 to 40 odd inches long with a 7 to 8 foot wingspan is an impressive bird. It is the true emblem of American wilderness. The Golden Eagle seeks out solitude and thrives in terrain that is rugged, but also lives in the foothills and sea cliffs. It has a tendency not to inhabit or leave areas that are densely populated. The eagle makes it home in North America from Alaska and Canada south to the southern U.S. and central Mexico. It can also be found in Europe and Asia south to northern Africa.
Golden Eagles are very agile, so combined with speed and talons that are incredibly powerful, they can snatch up an array of small animals such as rabbits, squirrels and some birds. They have been known to catch large birds such as large as ravens and swans. They also hunt large mammals such as foxes, mountain goats, young deer and both wild and domestic cats.
The adult is dark brown with golden buff feathers on the back and head with some grey on the wings and tail. The fully feathered legs differentiate it from the Bald Eagle. The young have white at the base of the tail and white patches on the wings.
The Golden Eagle’s territory can be up to 60 square miles. They usually mate for life. They may build a couple of nests (eyries) and alternate their usage from year to year. The nests are large (6 by 3 feet) and made of tree branches and grass and lined with mosses and leaves. Because of the size, the nests can be very heavy, so if built in a tree, the weight can break the supporting branches and the nest must be repaired. Another favorite spot to build the nest is on a cliff. They also use frequently use telephone poles. The eagles continue to enlarge the nest each year that it is used so it can become quite large indeed.
The female lays an average of 2 eggs. The eggs are incubated by both parents for 40 to 45 days. At this point the young hatch and then are fed for 50 days before attempting to leave the nest for their own food. The Golden Eagle’s nest has few predators – the brown bear and wolverine are the only ones reported.