Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) is one
of the best known birds of prey in the
Like all eagles
belongs to the family Accipitridae
Once widespread across the Holarctic
has disappeared from many of the more heavily populated areas.
Despite being locally extinct or uncommon, the species is still
fairly ubiquitous, being present in Eurasia
and parts of Africa
These birds are dark brown, with lighter golden-brown plumage on
their heads and necks. It has a wingspan averaging over 2 m
(7 ft) and up to 1 m (3 ft) in body length.They are
extremely swift, and can dive upon their quarry at speeds of more
than 150 miles (241 kilometers) per hour .
Golden eagles use their speed and sharp talons to snatch up
rabbits, marmots, and ground squirrels. They also eat carrion,
reptiles, birds, fish, and smaller fare such as large insects. They
have even been known to attack full-grown deer.
Golden eagle pairs maintain territories that may be as large as 60
square miles (155 square kilometers). They are monogamous and may
remain with their mate for several years or possibly for life.
Golden eagles nest in high places including cliffs, trees, or human
structures such as telephone poles. They build huge nests to which
they may return for several breeding years. Females lay from one to
four eggs, and both parents incubate them for 40 to 45 days.
Typically, one or two young survive to fledge in about three
Subadult, note white in tail and dark
Adult Golden Eagles range considerably in size, though some are
among the largest eagles of the genus Aquila
. Most subspecies of Golden Eagle
vary in the range from 65 to 100 cm (26–40 in) in length,
wingspan can range from 150 to 240 cm (60–96 in), and
weight is from 2.5 to 7 kg (5.5–15.5 lb). The
smallest-bodied subspecies is A. c. japonica
is the largest on average. However, wild specimens
from Northwestern North America (A. c. canadensis
exceed normal dimensions, as the largest recorded weighed 9 kg
(20 lbs) and had a body length of 102 cm (40.1 in).
As with many Accipitriformes
females are considerably larger than males, in the case of the
Golden Eagle they weigh one-quarter to one-third more than male
The plumage colours range from black-brown to dark brown, with a
striking golden-buff crown and nape, which give the bird its name.
The upper wings also have an irregular lighter area. Immature birds
resemble adults, but have a duller more mottled appearance. Also
they have a white-banded tail and a white patch at the carpal
joint, that gradually disappear with every moult
until full adult plumage is reached in the fifth
year. Contour feathers may be moulted in a short time span.
Taxonomy and systematics
was first described by Linnaeus
in his 1758 Systema naturae
."[Falco] cera lutea, pedibus lanatis, corpore
fusco ferrugineo vario, cauda nigra basi cinereo-undulata.
"A [diurnal raptor] with yellow cere
dusky brown variegated with rusty, tail black with ashy-waved
base." (Linnaeus 1758) The type
locality is given simply as "Europa"; it was later fixed to
The Golden Eagle is one of the large eagles in the genus
, which are
distributed almost worldwide. The latest research indicates it
forms a worldwide superspecies
, Gurney's Eagle
and the Wedge-tailed Eagle
Subspecies and distribution
The type species
Besides, there are five living subspecies
of Golden Eagle that differ slightly in size and plumage
. They can be found in different parts of the
Middle Pleistocene Golden Eagles
of France (and
possibly elsewhere) are referred to a paleosubspecies Aquila chrysaetos
bonifacti, and the huge specimens of the Late Pleistocene of Liko Cave (Crete) have been
named Aquila chrysaetos simurgh.
Golden eagle predominant prey is leporids
, prairie dogs
), the two groups normally comprising
50-94% of the diet of nesting eagles. Additional mammals regularly
taken include mice
, young deer
. The secondary important prey group for eagles are
. Various gallinaceous birds
) are the most significant avian
prey. However, virtually any bird, from a jay
, is potential prey. During winter months
when prey is scarce, Golden Eagles scavenge on carrion to
supplement their diet. Sometimes when no carrion is available
golden eagles will hunt down large prey, such as goat-antelopes
Reports have been made of mature adults killing wolves
and other medium sized canine species. There
is one confirmed report of a Golden Eagle snatching the cub of a
, and several other unverified
attacks. Golden eagles are avian apex
, meaning a healthy adult is not preyed upon. There
are records of golden eagles killing and eating large raptors such
as Eurasian Eagle Owls
, whether adults, nestlings or
s like Rough-legged Hawks
, which are normally
competitors, have worked together to group-mob Golden Eagles that
have passed their adjacent nesting areas. More commonly, Golden
, or steal
prey, from other raptors. Despite being often smaller in size, they
are capable of displacing large vultures, of both unrelated
families, from carrion. However, the Bald
and White-tailed Eagle
can displace Golden Eagles in competition over food and vice versa.
Golden Eagles have very good eyesight and can spot prey from a long
distance. The Golden Eagle has a resolving power 8x more powerful
than a human. The talons are used for killing and carrying the
prey, the beak is used only for eating. They often have a division
of labour while hunting, one bird driving the prey towards its
waiting partner. On the other hand, the size difference between
males and females allows more unpaired birds to live off the land,
which is helpful to maintain a sufficiently large population for
this large and slowly-maturing bird.
Golden Eagles usually mate for life. They build several eyrie
within their territory and use them
alternately for several years. These nests consist of heavy tree
branches, upholstered with grass when in use. Old eyries may be 2
metres (6.6 ft) in diameter and 1 metre (3.3 ft) in
height, as the eagles repair their nests whenever necessary and
enlarge them during each use. If the eyrie is situated on a tree,
supporting tree branches may break because of the weight of the
nest. Certain other animals – birds and mammals too small to be of
interest to the huge raptor – often use the nest as shelter. Their
predators are just the right size for Golden eagle prey, and
therefore avoid active eyries.
The female lays one to four (usually two) eggs between January and
September (depending on the locality). The eggs vary from all white
to white with cinnamon or brown spots and blotches. They start
incubation immediately after the first egg is laid, and after 40 to
45 days the young hatch. They are covered in fluffy white down and
are fed for fifty days before they are able to make their first
flight attempts and eat on their own. In most cases only the older
chick survives, while the younger one dies without leaving the
eyrie. This is due to the older chick having a few days' advantage
in growth and consequently winning most squabbles for food. This
strategy is useful for the species because it makes the parents'
workload manageable even when food is scarce, while providing a
reserve chick in case the first-born dies soon after hatching.
Golden eagles invest much time and effort in bringing up their
young; once able to hunt on their own, most golden eagles survive
many years, but mortality even among first-born nestlings is much
higher, in particular in the first weeks after hatching
Congregation and Migration
As with many raptors, golden eagles congregate once a year. In
Eurasia and North America, this congregation usually occurs in the
Autumn (whilecongregations of bald eagles is a late-winter /
early-spring phenomenon). The largest known congregation, in number
of birds present, of the goldeneagle is in the state of Montana in
The congregation site is the east slope of the
Bridger Canyon. The mountainrange is on the edge of the Rocky
Mountain chain, where it borders parts of the Great Plains and
several island ranges. Golden eagles from all over NorthAmerica
congregate here before migrating for the winter.
Status and conservation
time, the Golden Eagle lived in temperate Europe, North Asia, North America, North Africa and Japan.
most areas this bird is now a mountain-dweller, but in former
centuries it also bred in the plains and the forests. In recent years it
has started to breed in lowland areas again e.g. in Sweden and Denmark.
a great decline in Central Europe
where they are now essentially restricted to the Apennine, Alps and Carpathian
Mountains. In Britain, there were about 420 pairs in 2007, the majority
of these in the Scottish
highlands, and between 1969 and 2004 they bred in the Lake District, Cumbria.
Golden Eagles can still often be
seen soaring above mountains in Scotland, and are slowly returning
to Northern England.
Ireland, where it had been extinct due to hunting since
1912, efforts are being made to re-introduce the species.
birds were released into the wild in Glenveagh
National Park, County
Donegal, 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. In April 2007,
a pair of Golden Eagles produced the first chick to be hatched in
the Republic of Ireland in nearly a century. The previous attempt
to help the birds breed at the Glenveagh National Park had
In North America
the situation is not
as dramatic, but there has still been a noticeable decline. The
main threat is habitat
which by the late 19th century already had driven
Golden Eagles from some regions they used to inhabit. In the 20th
and heavy metal
poisonings were also
commonplace, but these have declined thanks to tighter regulations
. Within the United States, the Golden Eagle is legally protected by the
Bald and Golden
Eagle Protection Act.
Available habitat and food are the main limiting factor nowadays.
Collisions with power lines
an increasingly significant cause of mortality since the early 20th
century. On a global scale, the Golden Eagle is not considered
threatened by the IUCN
mainly thanks to the
large Asian and American populations.
In human culture
Golden Eagles can be trained for falconry
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, western Mongolia and China, Golden
Eagles are still used to hunt foxes and Wolves by Kazakh and
Kyrgyz nomads; the bird is locally known as
burkut or berkut.
Foxes are killed
outright by the eagles, but due to their size and strength wolves
are usually held down while the falconer himself finishes the
Golden Eagle is the national bird of four nations, Germany and Austria in continuation of the Holy Roman Empire, and Mexico and Kazakhstan, the most of any species.
The eagle is very
much connected to the Saladin Golden Eagle, currently used as the
coat of arms of Egypt
, and Palestine
it was also previously used by Libya, and Yemen.
The Golden Eagle was model for the aquila
, the standard of the Roman legions
. It is featured in the national coats of
arms of Germany, Austria, Egypt,
Mexico, Romania and many other
The eagle is a sacred bird in some cultures and the feathers of the
eagle are central to many religious and spiritual customs,
especially amongst some Native Americans in the
and First Nations
Canada, as well as among many of the peoples of Meso-America. Some
Native American peoples revere eagles as sacred and the feathers
and other parts of Bald and Golden Eagles. Feathers are often worn
on Native American headdresses and have been compared to the
Christianity. Eagle feathers are often used in various Native
ceremonies and are used to honour noteworthy achievements and
qualities such as exceptional leadership and bravery.
Current United States eagle feather
stipulates that only individuals of certifiable Native American
ancestry enrolled in a federally recognized tribe are legally
authorized to obtain eagle feathers for religious or spiritual use.
Thus, the supply of eagle material for traditional ceremonial use
can be guaranteed and ceremonial eagle items can be passed on as
by their traditional owners
without the restrictions that would usually apply. Commercial trade
in Golden Eagles or their feathers or body parts is not legalized
by these exceptions.
On February 1, 2006 the Director Dale Hall of the USFWS issued a
new permit to the Hopi Tribe for 2006. On April 26, 2007 USFWS
Deputy Director Kenneth Stansell issued a new permit for 2007. As
in the past, the permits authorize the Hopi to take up to 40 golden
In keeping with a departure begun in 2003, the USFWS HQ in
Washington, D.C., not the Regional Director in Albuquerque, New
Mexico, issued the 2006 and 2007 Eagle permits. The Regional Office
issued a separate, new permit on March 23, 2007 for the Hopi to
take an unlimited number of red-tail hawk nestlings in northeastern
Arizona in 2007.
A new aspect of Native American religious eagle gathering is that
additional tribes are now taking live eagles under USFWS permits,
for the first time. They are:
Jemez Pueblo - In October 2006, the USFWS issued a permit to Jemez
Pueblo to capture up to 2 golden eagles in the Valles Caldera
National Preserve, administered by the Forest Service, in Sandoval
County, New Mexico. The USFWS had previously denied a Jemez request
in 2002 to take eagles. In July 2007 Jemez reported that they
successfully collected two immature golden eagles.
Taos Pueblo - In February 2007 the USFWS issued a permit to Taos
Pueblo to shoot one mature golden eagle on Taos Pueblo Tribal lands
in Taos County, New Mexico. An additional permit allows the
permittee to transport the taken eagle and its parts anywhere
within the United States. Report was due to USFWS by December 31,
Isleta Pueblo - In April 2007, the USFWS issued a permit to the
Pueblo of Isleta to take two mature golden eagles on Pueblo lands
in Valencia and Bernalillo County, New Mexico. The Isleta Report is
due on March 31, 2008.
, the Vahana
religion, is a lesser Hindu divinity
, usually the mount
) of Vishnu
depicted as having the golden body of a strong man with a white
face, red wings, and an eagle's beak and with a crown
on his head. This ancient deity was
said to be massive, large enough to block out the sun
Garuda's stature in Hindu religion can be gauged by the fact that
an independent Upanishad
, the , and a
, the Garuda
, is devoted to him. Various names have been attributed
to - Chirada, Gaganeshvara, Kamayusha, Kashyapi, Khageshvara,
Nagantaka, Sitanana, Sudhahara, Suparna, Tarkshya, Vainateya,
Vishnuratha and others. The Vedas
earliest reference of , though by the name of Śyena, where this
mighty bird is said to have brought nectar
Puranas, which came into existence much later, mention as doing the
same thing, which indicates that Śyena (Sanskrit for Eagle) and are
the same. One of the faces of Śrī Pañcamukha Hanuman
is Mahavira . This face points towards the
west. Worship of is believed to remove the effects of poisons from
one's body. In Tamil Vaishnavism
Garuda and Hanuman
are known as "Periya Thiruvadi" and "Siriya
In the Bhagavad-Gita
30), in the middle of the battlefield "Kurukshetra
", Krishna explaining his
, says - "Of birds, I am
the son of Vinata
(Garuda)" indicating the
importance of Garuda.
Garuda plays an important role in Krishna
Avatar in which Krishna and Satyabhama ride on Garuda to kill
Narakasura. On another occasion, Lord Hari rides on Garuda to save
the devotee Elephant Gajendra. It is also said that Garuda's wings
when flying will chant the Vedas.
Image:Steinadler Baby vierzehn Tage alt 12052007 01.jpg|Nestling,
14 days after hatching.
Note second egg, still unhatched.Image:Orel skalní 1.jpg|Nestling
near fledging, losing down
.Image:Aquila chrysaetos USFWS.jpg|Subadult
A. c. canadensis in flight, Alaska.
Note white in underwings and tail.
Image:Steinadler Aquila chrysaetos closeup2 Richard Bartz.jpg|Close
up of the Golden EagleImage:Sulphurcreekeagle2008.jpg|Injured
, the Vahana
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of least concern
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(10th ed., vol.1): 88. Laurentius Salvius, Holmius (= Stockholm).
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- (1986): 649 F.Supp. 269 - U.S. v. Thirty-Eight Golden Eagles.
Michigan State University College of Law
- (2004b): 16 USC 668-668d - Bald and Golden Eagle Protection
Act. Version of March 30, 2004. Retrieved on February 14,
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Retrieved on November 20, 2007.
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