Adult of the North American subspecies Aquila chrysaetos canadensis -Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) is the smaller of Britain’s two native eagles; the other the White-tailed Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla). Despite being smaller than the golden eagle, the Sea Eagle’s distribution in the British Isles is much smaller. This is due to a recent reintroduction attempt for the Sea Eagle throughout North England and the Lake District, though the Golden Eagle is frequently seen in the Scottish Highlands.


The Eagle can generally be found around the more temperate areas of Northern Europe, America, and Asia, although it can also be spotted as far south as North Africa. Unfortunately, the population status of these birds has declined in recent years, with both Europe and America charting a decline in numbers. Due to hunting and destruction of habitat, the Eagle’s distribution throughout the UK has been vastly reduced to only a fraction of its original size; The largest population of Golden Eagles (an estimated 420 breeding pairs) are located in the Scottish Highlands, although they are slowly moving back into Northern England and have been reintroduced to Ireland. The Eagles prefer wide, unobstructed areas in which to fly, and as a result, their territories can extend from a tiny 5km2 to a sprawling 150km2, according to the density of the population in one area.

Social InteractionEdit

Like most raptors, Golden Eagles are monogamous, and stay with their mate for several years, or even life. They find and establish a fixed territory from which they never move; mating pairs have been known to return to a single huge nest ( called an eyrie) for several breeding years, which is built upon high areas such as cliffs or (in developed areas) telephone poles. The female lays from 1 to 4 eggs at a time, in late autumn to middle winter (September to January) and both parents incubate them for 40 to 45 days. When the eggs hatch the young are fed for around 50 days, until they moult their down feathers and attempt their first flight; generally, only the first-born and strongest hatchling survives to this stage, having had a few days growing advantage on the sicklier chicks. Golden Eagles are good parents, and investing more in the stronger chick gives a higher chance of it surviving until adulthood, although the infant mortality rate is still high.


Size: There is a huge variation in size within this species, although as a whole it is considered among the largest in the eagle genus. The usual range is within 65 – 100cm in length, with a wingspan from 150 to 240cm. Females are significantly larger than males, on average weighing around a third more than them.

Description: Most eagle colours can vary from a dark brown to an almost black-brown, although all Golden Eagles have a golden-tan collar extending from the back of the head down to the neck, which gives the Eagle its name. Adolescent birds look much like the adults, but with a distinctive white band across the tail feathers, and white splodges on the carpal joints (the equivalent of a knee in humans). A younger birds’ plumage is duller and more mottled, and both the mottled appearance and white markings fade gradually with every moult until they are fully grown at around 5 years.

Diet: The Golden Eagle often feeds off carrion, hares, rabbits, birds such as ptamigan, and the occasionaly grouse. They have a wide diet.


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