Scientific Name: Aquila
chrysaetos; named for the Greek words for golden eagle.
Life Span: Based on
banding records, most birds live less than two years, although some wild birds
have lived to be 11 years old. One captive bird lived to age 48.
range from 6.5- 9.5 pounds, females from 8-13 pounds. The golden eagle is 30-40
inches in length with a wingspread of 60-80 inches. Females are generally
larger, although there is some size overlap.
Range: The golden
eagle ranges throughout most of North America and in portions of Eurasia and
northern Africa. This species breeds in the western United States and parts of
the southwestern Canadian provinces and northern Mexico. Any of the lower 48
states may have migrant or wintering birds. In South Dakota, golden eagles nest
mainly west of the Missouri River, but may winter in other parts of the state.
golden eagle is named for the golden brown feathers of its head and nape. Its
eyes and beak are dark-colored. The body is mostly dark brown, and feathers
completely cover its legs. Juvenile golden eagles have white patches in the
wings and a white tail with a black band on the outer edge.
Diet: Rodents, such
as ground squirrels and marmots, are important golden eagle foods, as are
lagomorphs, such as cottontails and jackrabbits. Golden eagles sometimes feed
on deer and pronghorn fawns and domestic livestock. Golden eagles commonly feed
on carrion, or dead animals. Since these birds are large and visible, many
people assume they have killed what they are eating, which is commonly untrue.
Nest: The pair nests
on ledges of rocky cliffs or in large trees. The nest may be eight feet in
diameter and be used for many years. Golden eagles usually build their nests of
sticks and line them with a softer material, such as roots or moss. They
incubate their clutch of one to three dull white eggs for 43-45 days. The
female may do most of the incubating, although the male brings food to the nest
for the female to feed the young. Golden eagles commonly alternate between one
or more nest sites from year to year.
Pair Bond: Golden
eagles are believed to mate for life. However, a lost mate is quickly replaced
by another. Displays include the sky-dance and tumbling through the air. A pair
may use other displays, such as talon grasping and cartwheeling, when defending
its territory. Golden eagles may be quite protective of their young. Adults may
feed young for several months after young birds can fly. Some family groups may
Protection Status: The
Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects the golden eagle, along with other migratory
birds. This species enjoys added protection with the bald eagle under the Bald
Eagle Protection Act. This act protects eagles from harm and prohibits taking
of eagles, their eggs or nests without a special permit. Special taking permits
are sometimes given for animal damage control, scientific research, species
recovery, religious uses, and falconry.