The Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) is one of the best known birds of prey in the Northern Hemisphere. Like all eagles, it belongs to the family Accipitridae. Once widespread across the Holarctic, it has disappeared from many of the more heavily populated areas. Despite being extirpated from some its former range or uncommon, the species is still fairly ubiquitous, being present in Eurasia, North America, and parts of Africa. The highest density of nesting Golden Eagles in the world lies in southernAlameda County, California. These birds are dark brown, with lighter golden-brown plumage on their heads and necks.
Golden Eagles use their agility and speed combined with extremely powerful talons to snatch up prey including rabbits, marmots, ground squirrels, and large mammals such as foxes, wild and domestic cats, mountain goats, ibex, and young deer. They will also eat carrion if prey is scarce, as well as reptiles. Birds, including large species up to the size of swans and cranes as well as ravens and Greater Black-backed Gulls have all been recorded as prey. They have even been known to attack and kill fully grown roe deer. The Eurasian subspecies is used to hunt and kill wolves in many native communities, where their status is regarded with great mystic reverence.
Golden Eagles maintain territories that may be as large as 155 square kilometres (60 square miles). They are monogamous and may remain together 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 months.
The Golden Eagle is a large, dark brown raptor with broad wings. Its size is variable: it ranges from 70 to 85 centimetres (2 ft 4 in to 2 ft 9 in) in length, has a wingspan of 185 to 220 centimetres (6 ft 1 in to 7 ft 3 in), and weighs 3 to 6 kilograms (7 to 13 lb).Sexes are similar in plumage but are considerably dimorphic in size, with females much larger than males. Adults are primarily brown, with gold on the back of the crown and nape, and some grey on the wings and tail. tarsal feathers range from white to dark brown. In addition, some birds have white "epaulettes" on the upper part of each scapular feather tract. The bill is dark at the tip, fading to a lighter horn color, with a yellow cere.
Juveniles have a darker, unfaded color, white patches in the remiges which may be divided by darker feathers, and a large amount of white on the tail with a black terminal band. Occasionally upper wing feathers of juveniles are also white, or birds lack white on the wing entirely. As the bird ages, the amount of white on wings and tail diminishes, and adult plumages is usually acquired by the fifth year.
Golden Eagles usually mate for life. They build several eyries 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.
The Golden Eagle is the national bird of five nations, Albania, Germany, and Austria in continuation of the Holy Roman Empire,, Mexico and Kazakhstan, the most of any species. The eagle is very much connected to the SaladinGolden Eagle, currently used as the coat of arms of Egypt, Iraq, and Palestine, it was also previously used by Libya, andYemen.
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,Albania, Austria, Egypt, Mexico, Romania and many other countries.