Guardian Nature School Team Contact Blog Project Noah Facebook Project Noah Twitter

A worldwide community photographing and learning about wildlife

Join Project Noah!
nature school apple icon

Project Noah Nature School visit nature school

Golden eagle

Aquila chrysaetos

Description:

The golden eagle is a very large, dark brown raptor with broad wings, ranging from 66 to 102 cm (26 to 40 in) in length and from 1.8 to 2.34 m (5 ft 11 in to 7 ft 8 in) in wingspan. This species' wingspan is the fifth largest amongst extant eagle species. In the largest race (A. c. daphanea) males and females weigh typically 4.05 kg (8.9 lb) and 6.35 kg (14.0 lb). In the smallest subspecies, A. c. japonica, males weigh 2.5 kg (5.5 lb) and females 3.25 kg (7.2 lb).[2] In the species overall, males may average around 3.6 kg (7.9 lb) and females around 5.1 kg (11 lb). The maximum size of this species is a matter of some debate. Large races are the heaviest representatives of the Aquila genus and this species is on average the seventh-heaviest living eagle species. The golden eagle ranks as the second heaviest breeding eagle in North America, Europe and Africa but the fourth heaviest in Asia. For some time, the largest known mass authenticated for a wild female was the specimen from the nominate race which weighed around 6.7 kg (15 lb) and spanned 2.55 m (8 ft 4 in) across the wings. American golden eagles are typically somewhat smaller than the large Eurasian races, but a massive female that was banded and released in 2006 around Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest became the heaviest wild golden eagle on record, at 7.2 kg (16 lb). No comprehensive range of weights are known for the largest subspecies (A. c. daphanea).[9] Captive birds have been measured up to a wingspan of 2.81 m (9 ft 3 in) and a mass of 12.1 kg (27 lb) (the latter figure was for an eagle bred for the purposes of falconry which tend to be unnaturally heavy), respectively. The standard measurements of the species include a wing chord length of 52–72 cm (20–28 in), a tail length of 26.5–38 cm (10.4–15.0 in) and a tarsus length of 9.4–12.2 cm (3.7–4.8 in). The culmen reportedly averages around 4.5 cm (1.8 in), with a range of 3.6 to 5 cm (1.4 to 2.0 in) and the bill length from the gape measures around 6 cm (2.4 in). The long, straight and powerful hallux-claw (or hind claw, the equivalent to the big toe) can range from 4.5 to 6.34 cm (1.77 to 2.50 in), being about one centimeter more than the hallux-claw of a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and a little more than one cm less than a harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja). The sexes are similar in plumage but are considerably dimorphic in size. Females are rather larger than males with the differences increasing as the body size increases across the races. The large Himalayan golden eagles females are about 37% heavier and nearly 9% longer in wing length than the males of the race compared with the small Japanese golden eagles where females are a relatively modest 26% heavier and around 6% longer in wing length than males. The formidable foot and talons of a golden eagle Adults are primarily dark brown in color, with a paler, typically golden color (the source of the species’ common name) on the back of the crown and nape, and some grey on the inner-wing and tail. There are subtle differences in coloration among the races, described below. Unlike in other Aquila species, where the tarsal feathers are typically of a similar color to the rest of the plumage, the tarsal feathers of golden eagles tend to be paler, ranging from light golden to white. In addition, some full-grown birds (especially in North America) 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. As in many acciptrids, the bare portion of the feet are yellow. This species moults gradually beginning in March or April until September or October each year. Moulting usually decreases in winter. Moult of the contour feathers begins on the head and neck region and process along the feather tracts in a general anterior-posterior direction. Feathers on head, neck, back and scapulars may be replaced annually. With large feathers of the wing and tail, moult beginning with innermost feather and proceeds outwards in a straightforward manner known as "descendant" moult. The juvenile golden eagle is similar to the adult but tends to be darker, appearing black on the back especially in East Asia. Compared to adults, juveniles have a more unfaded color. Young birds are white for about two-thirds of their tail length ending with a broad, black terminal band. Occasionally, juvenile eagles have white patches on the remiges at the bases of the inner primaries and the outer secondaries, forming a crescent marking on the wings which tend to be divided by darker feathers. Rarely, juvenile birds may have only trace amounts of white on the tail. Compared to the relatively consistently white tail, the white patches on the wing are extremely variable and some juveniles have almost no white visible. Juveniles of less than 12 months of age tend to have the most extensive amount of white to the plumage. By their second summer, the white underwing coverts are usually replaced by a characteristic rusty-brown color. By the third summer, the upper-wing coverts are largely replaced by dark brown feathers, however not all feathers moult at once giving many juvenile birds a grizzled pattern. The tail also follows a similar pattern of maturation. Due to the amount of variability in different individuals, juvenile eagles cannot be reliably aged on sight alone. Many golden eagles still have white on the tail during their first attempt at nesting. The final adult plumage is not fully attained until the birds are between 5 and a half and 6 and a half years old.

Habitat:

Golden eagles are fairly adaptable in habitat but often reside in areas with a few shared ecological characteristics. They are best suited to hunting in open or semi-open areas and search them out year-around. Native vegetation seems to be attractive to them and they typically avoid developed areas of any type from urban to agricultural as well as heavily forested regions. In desolate areas (i.e. the southern Yukon), they can occur regularly at roadkills and garbage dumps. The largest numbers of golden eagles are found in mountainous regions today, with many eagles doing a majority of their hunting and nesting on rock formations. However, they are not solely tied to high elevations and can breed in lowlands if the local habitats are suitable. Below are more detailed description of habitats occupied by golden eagles in both continents where they occur.

Notes:

Birds of a professional falconer. Found injured and nursed back to health in his rescue center.

Species ID Suggestions



Sign in to suggest organism ID

2 Comments

Benno Ibold
Benno Ibold 9 years ago

Yes it is, goldeneagle :)

goldeneagle
goldeneagle 9 years ago

That is one beautiful bird

Benno Ibold
Spotted by
Benno Ibold

Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany

Spotted on Sep 7, 2013
Submitted on Feb 22, 2015

Related Spottings

Steppe eagle Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) Golden eagle  (Aquila chrysaetos) Steepe eagle

Nearby Spottings

Common Buzzard Eurasian eagle-owl Bubo bubo Common kestrel Little owl

Reference

Noah Guardians
Noah Sponsors
join Project Noah Team

Join the Project Noah Team