Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle


Profile Golden Eagle     Literature page Golden

[order] Falconiformes | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Aquila chrysaetos | [UK] Golden Eagle | [FR] Aigle royal | [DE] Steinadler | [ES] Águila Real | [IT] Aquila reale | [NL] Steenarend

Steenarend determination

copyright: NGC

This majestic eagle, with gliding or soaring flight is named for its golden- brown plumage, with head and nape feathers a slightly lighter, gold color. Measuring 70-84 cm in length, the golden eagle has a wingspan of 2 m and weighs 3.2-6.4 kg. Adults have a heavy dark tipped bill. The immature golden in flight can be distinguished from the immature bald eagle by the presence of distinct white patches on the underside of the wing and by a broad white tail with dark band. The most notable field mark is the presence of feathers on the legs of golden eagles all the way down to the toes.

Typically the species occupies mountain landscapes where tree cover is sparse or fragmented. Such lowland birds are exclusively tree-nesting, but elsewhere nests are predominantly on cliffs. They often returning annually to the same nest. Though nesting territories may be occupied yearly, there are generally several nest sites in the area that are used on different years. These nests may be over 0.5 miles apart. Alternate nests range from 1 to 11 per territory.

This eagle inhabits a major part of Eurasia, northern Africa and North America. In Europe it has inhabited nearly the whole continent, but in many regions it has disappeared following persecution and in-depth changes in land use practices. In the Iberian Peninsula and Greece this regression is still in progress. In Scotland its population seems to be quite stable. In the Alps a definite increase has been noticed since about 20 years. The total population of the European Union was estimated at 2500 breeding pairs in 1995. the Golden Eagle is now restricted to the higher central Apennines regions of Italy (the regional capital of Abruzzo is named after the Latin/Italian word for eagle, L’Aquila), and the Alps. In Britain, there are about 420 pairs left in the Scottish highlands, and between 1969 and 2004 they bred in the English Lake District. In North America the situation is not as dramatic, but there has still been a noticeable decline. Efforts are being made to re-introduce the species in Glenveagh National Park, County Donegal, Ireland, where they had been extinct since the early 20th Century. Forty-six birds have been released into the wild from 2001 to 2006, with at least three known female fatalities since then. It is intended to release a total of sixty birds, to ensure a viable population.

Food is diverse, including mammals, birds of different species, snakes and other reptiles and tortoises (Testudo). They will also feed on carrion.

This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 100,000-1,000,000 km². It has a large global population estimated to be 250,000 individuals (Ferguson-Lees et al. 2001). Global population trends have not been quantified, but populations appear to be stable (Ferguson-Lees et al. 2001) so the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from]

Nests are constructed of large twigs or roots and can be lined with moss, bark, fur or other soft material. The nest may become huge, as much as 8 to 10 feet across and 3 to 4 feet deep. Eggs are laid between February and May (or May to June in the Arctic) commonly two per nest, although up to four eggs could be laid in one clutch. Incubation time is 43 to 45 days. Usually, the female does most of the incubating. The first born eaglet is aggressive against the weaker younger sibling and attacks it, does not let it feed, until the younger chick dies. This phenomenon is called kainism.

The young will fledge when 72 to 84 days old, and depend upon their parents for another 3 months. Then the young will either migrate or move out of the parents’ territory but overwinter in their natal area.In winter, large groups of Golden Eagles may flock together.

Generally sedentary. mainly migratory in northernmost parts of range, both in North America and in Asia, where in winter prey may be scarce or inaccessible, e.g. hibernating ground squirrels. In North America, migrants leave breeding grounds from September; most winter in W estUSA, but South to Mexico, some in areas with resident populations too. Return migration starts February, and lasts months, with juveniles returning latest. Sedentary adult pairs normally stay in approximately same home range throughout year. Juveniles markedly more dispersive and travel further.


  1. Measurements
  2. spanwidth min.: 190 cm
  3. spanwidth max.: 225 cm
  4. size min.: 80 cm
  5. size max.: 93 cm
  6. Breeding
  7. incubation min.: 43 days
  8. incubation max.: 45 days
  9. fledging min.: 65 days
  10. fledging max.: 70 days
  11. broods 1
  12. eggs min.: 1
  13. eggs max.: 3
  14. Conservation Status
  15. Steenarend status Least Concern


  1. Aquila chrysaetos canadensis
  2. Alaska, Canada, w USA, wc Mexico
  3. Aquila chrysaetos homeyeri
  4. Iberian Pen., n Africa through the Middle East to Iran and Uzbekistan
  5. Aquila chrysaetos daphanea
  6. c Asia
  7. Aquila chrysaetos japonica
  8. Korea, Japan
  9. Aquila chrysaetos kamtschatica
  10. ne Asia
  11. Aquila chrysaetos chrysaetos
  12. Europe to nc Asia
  13. Aquila chrysaetos
  14. NA, MA, EU widespread
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