Golden Eagle

Aquila Chrysaetos

Last updated: October 10, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit Vladimir Kogan Michael/Shutterstock.com

Their calls sound like high-pitched screams, but they are quiet most of the time.

Golden Eagle Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Accipitriformes
Family
Accipitridae
Genus
Aquila
Scientific Name
Aquila Chrysaetos

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Golden Eagle Conservation Status


Golden Eagle Facts

Prey
rabbits, hares, squirrels, prairie dogs, fish, cranes, swans, badgers, and carrion (dead animals).
Name Of Young
Eaglets
Group Behavior
  • Mainly solitary
Fun Fact
Their calls sound like high-pitched screams, but they are quiet most of the time.
Estimated Population Size
85,000 to 160,000
Biggest Threat
Climate change, power lines, and pollution
Most Distinctive Feature
Long, broad wings
Distinctive Feature
Small heads, long tails
Wingspan
7 feet
Incubation Period
41 to 45 days
Age Of Independence
60 to 70 days
Habitat
Mountains, canyons, riverside cliffs
Predators
Coyotes, wolverines, and bears
Diet
Carnivore
Lifestyle
  • Diurnal
Type
Bird
Common Name
golden eagle
Number Of Species
6
Location
North America, Africa, Europe, Asia
Average Clutch Size
2
Nesting Location
Cliff ledges or large trees
Migratory
1

Golden Eagle Physical Characteristics

Color
  • White
  • Gold
  • Dark Brown
Skin Type
Feathers
Top Speed
200 mph
Lifespan
20 to 30 years
Weight
105 to 216 ounces
Length
26 to 33 inches
Age of Sexual Maturity
4 years

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“The golden eagle is one of the largest birds in North America.”

Summary

The golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) lives in the northern hemisphere across four continents and over 70 countries. It inhabits semi-open areas with rocky ledges and cliffs and spends its days soaring low to the ground in search of prey. This species is ferocious and can kill and eat animals twice its size. Discover this unique bird of prey, including where it lives, what it eats, and how it behaves.

5 Amazing Golden Eagle Facts

  • Golden eagles are one of the largest birds in North America and feature a seven-foot wingspan.
  • They are incredibly fast and agile, reaching speeds up to 200 Mph!
  • Males and females form long-term pairs bonds and return to the same nesting site for several years.
  • Their calls sound like high-pitched screams, but they are quiet most of the time.
  • Mated pairs hunt together and form coordinated attacks.

Where to Find the Golden Eagle

The golden eagle lives across four continents (North America, Africa, Europe, and Asia) in over 70 countries, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, and China. In North America, they breed in Alaska and Canada and winter across most of the United States. Some populations live year-round on the west side of the US. You will find these birds in open or semi-open habitats, including mountains, canyons, riverside cliffs, and rimrock. They nest on cliff ledges and vegetated areas with tall trees.

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Golden Eagle Nest

They nest on cliff ledges or large trees. It’s built by both sexes and consists of a bulky platform made of sticks, and they line the insides with weeds, grass, leaves, and moss. They reuse the same nesting sites for multiple years, adding more material each season.

Scientific Name

The golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) is from the Accipitridae family and contains diurnal birds of prey with strongly hooked bills and varied diets. The Aquila genus is a group of true eagles. The name is Latin for “eagle” and “dark in colour.” Chrysaetos is Ancient Greek for “gold” and “eagle.” There are six recognized golden eagle subspecies. 

Size, Appearance, & Behavior

Golden eagles are one of the largest birds in North America, measuring 26 to 33 inches long and weighing 105 to 216 ounces, with a 72 to 86-inch (7 feet) wingspan. They have relatively small heads, long tails, and long, broad wings. Adults are dark brown with a golden hue on the back of their heads and necks, and both males and females look similar. Their young are distinguishable by the white patches on their wings and at the base of their tails. 


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These birds are primarily solitary, except for breeding pairs. They may occasionally bathe in groups or roost together in freezing weather. You often find them soaring or gliding low to the ground with their wings lifted in a V-shape. They are incredibly agile and fast, reaching speeds of almost 200 Mph. They are typically quiet birds, but when they do make calls, they sound like high-pitched screams and squeals.

Migration Pattern and Timing

Golden eagles are short to medium-distance migrants, and some populations are residents. Most golden eagles in Europe, Africa, and Asia stay in their environments year-round. But those who breed in Sweden and Belarus will migrate to warmer areas during winter. Eagles in North America have a split population. Those on the west of the United States stay in their environments year-round, while others breed in Alaska and Northern Canada and migrate into the United States during winter.

Diet

Golden eagles are strictly carnivores who eat anything they can get their talons on.

What Does the Golden Eagle Eat?

They eat rabbits, hares, squirrels, prairie dogs, fish, cranes, swans, badgers, and carrion (dead animals). These eagles can take down creatures much bigger than them, including coyotes, deer, livestock, seals, mountain goats, bobcats, and bighorn sheep. They will even rob bird nests and steal food from other birds. Most of the time, they use aerial attacks to strike their prey, but occasionally they hunt from the ground, flapping their wings as they run. Black-tailed jackrabbits are one of their favorite foods, and mated pairs will hunt this species together with coordinated attacks. One will distract the rabbit as the other goes in for the kill.

Predators, Threats, and Conservation Status

The IUCN lists the golden eagle as LC or “least concern.” Due to its extensive range and huge, stable population, this species does not meet “threatened” thresholds. This eagle was heavily persecuted in the 19th century, but that threat has significantly diminished. However, they do still suffer from trapping, shooting, and poisoning. While they don’t currently have any severe threats facing their population, these birds still endure the effects of climate change, the agricultural industry, power lines, and pollution.

What Eats the Golden Eagle?

Golden eagles are birds of prey, and adults have no natural predators. But they may occasionally be harassed by crows, jays, and raptors. Eaglets are not so fortunate and can fall victim to coyotes, wolverines, and bears. Thankfully, this is not too common. Golden eagles are ferocious predators who can take down creatures bigger than them, such as wolves and deer. This species is known to be more aggressive than a bald eagle and will use its sharp talons to tear flesh as it rapidly descends on intruders. They may even use their strong beaks to inflict painful bites.

Reproduction, Young, and Molting

Golden eagles are monogamous and remain with the same mate for several years or life. They perform courtship displays, which include aerial acrobatics like circling and diving. Females lay one to four eggs, but two are typically the average. The eggs are white with brown markings, and both sexes assist in incubation, which lasts 41 to 45 days. After hatching, females remain with the nestlings while the males hunt and bring food. The young can fly on their own for around 60 to 70 days and don’t join the breeding population until four years old. These eagles have long lifespans and can live between 20 to 30 years.

Population

The global golden eagle population is estimated to number 85,000 to 160,000 mature individuals. Over the last 40 years, their numbers have been stable in North America and steadily increasing in Europe. Their population does not suffer from extreme fluctuations or fragmentations.

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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer and content creator focusing on nature, wildlife, food, and travel. She graduated Kappa Beta Delta from Florida State College with a business degree before realizing writing was her true passion. She lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and enjoys hiking, reading, and cooking!

Golden Eagle FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Where do golden eagles live?

The golden eagle lives across four continents (North America, Africa, Europe, and Asia) in over 70 countries, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, and China.

How big are golden eagles?

Golden eagles are one of the largest birds in North America, measuring 26 to 33 inches long and weighing 105 to 216 ounces, with a 72 to 86-inch (7 feet) wingspan.

Are golden eagles social?

These birds are primarily solitary, except for breeding pairs. They may occasionally bathe in groups or roost together in freezing weather.

How fast are golden eagles?

They are incredibly agile and fast, reaching speeds of almost 200 Mph.

What do golden eagles eat?

They eat rabbits, hares, squirrels, prairie dogs, fish, cranes, swans, badgers, and carrion (dead animals). These eagles can take down creatures much bigger than them, including coyotes, deer, livestock, seals, mountain goats, bobcats, and bighorn sheep.

What threatens the golden eagle?

While they don’t currently have any severe threats facing their population, these birds still endure the effects of climate change, the agricultural industry, power lines, and pollution.

How aggressive are golden eagles?

This species is known to be more aggressive than a bald eagle and will use its sharp talons to tear flesh as it rapidly descends on intruders. They may even use their strong beaks to inflict painful bites.

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Sources
  1. IUON Red List, Available here: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22696060/202078899
  2. Birds of North America, Available here: http://sntbberry.cityofsanteeca.gov/sites/FanitaRanch/Public/Remainder%20of%20the%20Record/(2)%20Reference%20Documents%20from%20EIR%20&%20Technical%20Reports/Tab%20170%20-%202002%20Kochert%20et%20al.%202002_BNA%20GOEA.pdf
  3. The Golden Eagle / Jeff Watson, Available here: https://books.google.com/books?id=UPTUBAAAQBAJ&lpg=PP1&ots=nK6_38PXZV&dq=golden%20eagle&lr&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=golden%20eagle&f=false

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