Interesting facts about the golden eagle

Written by lisa miller
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Interesting facts about the golden eagle
Golden eagles are revered in many parts of their range. (nelik/iStock/Getty Images)

Golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) are large and easily recognisable raptors which can be seen throughout much of the northern hemisphere. These birds are known for their beauty, power and speed -- they can reach diving speeds of 240 km per hour (150 mph). Though uncommon in some parts of their range, golden eagles are currently on the amber list of conservation concern, according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).


With an adult wingspan of between 1.8 to 2.3 metres (6 to 7.5 feet), golden eagles are generally among the largest birds of prey in their geographic range. Along with their size, golden eagles can also be identified by their uniform dark brown colour, which lightens to golden brown near their heads and necks; the relatively small size of their heads; and the presence of feathers along their feet, which extend to the birds' toes. Immature golden eagles look similar to adults, but tend to have white patches on their tails and wings.


Golden eagles live throughout much of the northern hemisphere, including the UK and parts of the United States and Canada. They can also be found in Asia and northern Africa and Europe. In the UK, golden eagles can be seen in Scotland and north-west England.


Golden eagles prefer both heavily forested areas and hilly, open grasslands that border on forests. Golden eagles will also inhabit mountainous areas, tundra and moorland. When looking for nesting sites, golden eagles will opt for rocky cliffs and, in some circumstances, high tree branches. A single pair of golden eagles will maintain a territory of up to 97 square km (60 square miles).


Though golden eagles are capable of catching very large animals (such as deer), the primary diet of golden eagles consists of much smaller prey. Golden eagles will catch and consume rodents and rabbits, fish, other birds, reptiles and even insects. Carrion can also make up a portion of a golden eagle's diet. Golden eagles were once regularly killed by farmers who feared for their livestock, though this ultimately proved to be an unfounded fear for the most part.


Golden eagles spend the majority of their day hunting prey, which they do by flying close to the ground or perching, occasionally on the ground, and waiting for their prey to appear. Golden eagles form monogamous pairs for several years if not for life, and both parties engage in nest-building. Males and females take turns incubating their eggs, with one eagle sitting on the nest while the other provides food.

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