Golden Eagle
Overview
The Golden Eagle is one of the best known birds of prey
Bird of prey
Birds of prey are birds that hunt for food primarily on the wing, using their keen senses, especially vision. They are defined as birds that primarily hunt vertebrates, including other birds. Their talons and beaks tend to be relatively large, powerful and adapted for tearing and/or piercing flesh....

 in the Northern Hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

. Like all eagle
Eagle
Eagles are members of the bird family Accipitridae, and belong to several genera which are not necessarily closely related to each other. Most of the more than 60 species occur in Eurasia and Africa. Outside this area, just two species can be found in the United States and Canada, nine more in...

s, it belongs to the family Accipitridae
Accipitridae
The Accipitridae, one of the two major families within the order Accipitriformes , are a family of small to large birds with strongly hooked bills and variable morphology based on diet. They feed on a range of prey items from insects to medium-sized mammals, with a number feeding on carrion and a...

. Once widespread across the Holarctic
Holarctic
The Holarctic ecozone refers to the habitats found throughout the northern continents of the world as a whole. This region is divided into the Palearctic, consisting of Northern Africa and all of Eurasia, with the exception of Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, and the Nearctic,...

, 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
Eurasia
Eurasia is a continent or supercontinent comprising the traditional continents of Europe and Asia ; covering about 52,990,000 km2 or about 10.6% of the Earth's surface located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres...

, North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

, and parts of Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

. The highest density of nesting Golden Eagles in the world lies in southern Alameda County, California.
Encyclopedia
The Golden Eagle is one of the best known birds of prey
Bird of prey
Birds of prey are birds that hunt for food primarily on the wing, using their keen senses, especially vision. They are defined as birds that primarily hunt vertebrates, including other birds. Their talons and beaks tend to be relatively large, powerful and adapted for tearing and/or piercing flesh....

 in the Northern Hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

. Like all eagle
Eagle
Eagles are members of the bird family Accipitridae, and belong to several genera which are not necessarily closely related to each other. Most of the more than 60 species occur in Eurasia and Africa. Outside this area, just two species can be found in the United States and Canada, nine more in...

s, it belongs to the family Accipitridae
Accipitridae
The Accipitridae, one of the two major families within the order Accipitriformes , are a family of small to large birds with strongly hooked bills and variable morphology based on diet. They feed on a range of prey items from insects to medium-sized mammals, with a number feeding on carrion and a...

. Once widespread across the Holarctic
Holarctic
The Holarctic ecozone refers to the habitats found throughout the northern continents of the world as a whole. This region is divided into the Palearctic, consisting of Northern Africa and all of Eurasia, with the exception of Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, and the Nearctic,...

, 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
Eurasia
Eurasia is a continent or supercontinent comprising the traditional continents of Europe and Asia ; covering about 52,990,000 km2 or about 10.6% of the Earth's surface located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres...

, North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

, and parts of Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

. The highest density of nesting Golden Eagles in the world lies in southern Alameda 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, marmot
Marmot
The marmots are a genus, Marmota, of squirrels. There are 14 species in this genus.Marmots are generally large ground squirrels. Those most often referred to as marmots tend to live in mountainous areas such as the Alps, northern Apennines, Eurasian steppes, Carpathians, Tatras, and Pyrenees in...

s, ground squirrels, and large mammals such as fox
Fox
Fox is a common name for many species of omnivorous mammals belonging to the Canidae family. Foxes are small to medium-sized canids , characterized by possessing a long narrow snout, and a bushy tail .Members of about 37 species are referred to as foxes, of which only 12 species actually belong to...

es, wild and domestic cats, mountain goat
Mountain goat
The Mountain Goat , also known as the Rocky Mountain Goat, is a large-hoofed mammal found only in North America. Despite its vernacular name, it is not a member of Capra, the genus of true goats...

s, ibex, and young deer
Deer
Deer are the ruminant mammals forming the family Cervidae. Species in the Cervidae family include white-tailed deer, elk, moose, red deer, reindeer, fallow deer, roe deer and chital. Male deer of all species and female reindeer grow and shed new antlers each year...

. 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
Roe Deer
The European Roe Deer , also known as the Western Roe Deer, chevreuil or just Roe Deer, is a Eurasian species of deer. It is relatively small, reddish and grey-brown, and well-adapted to cold environments. Roe Deer are widespread in Western Europe, from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia, and from...

. 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 (59.8 sq mi). 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
Bird nest
A bird nest is the spot in which a bird lays and incubates its eggs and raises its young. Although the term popularly refers to a specific structure made by the bird itself—such as the grassy cup nest of the American Robin or Eurasian Blackbird, or the elaborately woven hanging nest of the...

 to which they may return for several breeding years. Females lay from one to four eggs
Bird egg
Bird eggs are laid by females and incubated for a time that varies according to the species; a single young hatches from each egg. Average clutch sizes range from one to about 17...

, and both parents incubate them for 40 to 45 days. Typically, one or two young survive to fledge in about three months.

Description

The Golden Eagle is a large, dark brown raptor with broad wings. Its size is variable: it ranges from 66 to 100 cm (26 to 39.4 in) in length and it has a typical wingspan of 1.8 to 2.34 m (5.9 to 7.7 ft). In the largest race (A. c. daphanea) males and females weigh 4.05 kg (8.9 lb) and 6.35 kg (14 lb). In the smallest subspecies (A. c. japonensis), the sexes weigh, respectively, 2.5 kg (5.5 lb) and 3.25 kg (7.2 lb). The maximum size of the huge eagles is a matter of some debate, although the normal upper weight limit for a large female is around 6.8 kg (15 lb). Captive birds have been measured up to a wingspan of 2.81 m (9.2 ft) and a mass of 12.1 kg (26.7 lb) (the latter figure was for an eagle bred for the purposes of falconry
Falconry
Falconry is "the taking of wild quarry in its natural state and habitat by means of a trained raptor". There are two traditional terms used to describe a person involved in falconry: a falconer flies a falcon; an austringer flies a hawk or an eagle...

). The sexes are similar in plumage but are considerably dimorphic
Sexual dimorphism
Sexual dimorphism is a phenotypic difference between males and females of the same species. Examples of such differences include differences in morphology, ornamentation, and behavior.-Examples:-Ornamentation / coloration:...

 in size, with females rather 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
Tarsus (skeleton)
In tetrapods, the tarsus is a cluster of articulating bones in each foot situated between the lower end of tibia and fibula of the lower leg and the metatarsus. In the foot the tarsus articulates with the bones of the metatarsus, which in turn articulate with the bones of the individual toes...

 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
Cère
The Cère is a long river in south-western France, left tributary of the Dordogne River. Its source is in the south-western Massif Central, near the mountain Plomb du Cantal...

.

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.

Taxonomy and systematics

This species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 was first described by Linnaeus
Carolus Linnaeus
Carl Linnaeus , also known after his ennoblement as , was a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, who laid the foundations for the modern scheme of binomial nomenclature. He is known as the father of modern taxonomy, and is also considered one of the fathers of modern ecology...

 in his 1758 Systema naturae
Systema Naturae
The book was one of the major works of the Swedish botanist, zoologist and physician Carolus Linnaeus. The first edition was published in 1735...

as Falco chrysaetos. The type locality was given simply as "Europa"; it was later fixed to Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

. It was moved to the new genus Aquila by French ornithologist Mathurin Jacques Brisson
Mathurin Jacques Brisson
Mathurin Jacques Brisson was a French zoologist and natural philosopher.Brisson was born at Fontenay-le-Comte. The earlier part of his life was spent in the pursuit of natural history, his published works in this department including Le Règne animal and Ornithologie...

 in 1760.

The Golden Eagle is one of the largest eagles in the genus Aquila
Aquila (genus)
Aquila is the genus of true eagles. It is often united with the buteos, sea eagles and other more heavyset Accipitridae, but more recently it appears as if they are less distinct from the more slender accipitrine hawks than believed...

, which are distributed almost worldwide. The latest research indicates it forms a worldwide superspecies
Superspecies
A superspecies is a group of at least two more or less distinctive species with approximately parapatric distributions. Not all species complexes, whether cryptices or ring species are superspecies, and vice versa, but many are...

 with Verreaux's Eagle
Verreaux's Eagle
Verreaux's Eagle , alternatively known as the Black Eagle , is a large bird of prey. This eagle lives in hilly and mountaineous regions of southern and eastern Africa , and very locally in Western Asia.- Description :It is long. Males weigh and females weigh...

, Gurney's Eagle
Gurney's Eagle
Gurney's Eagle, Aquila gurneyi, is a large eagle in the family Accipitridae. It is found on New Guinea and adjacent smaller islands.-Description:...

, and the Wedge-tailed Eagle
Wedge-tailed Eagle
The Wedge-tailed Eagle , sometimes known as the Eaglehawk in its native range, is the largest bird of prey in Australia, but it is also found in southern New Guinea. It has long, fairly broad wings, fully feathered legs, and an unmistakable wedge-shaped tail...

.

Subspecies and distribution

There are six extant subspecies
Subspecies
Subspecies in biological classification, is either a taxonomic rank subordinate to species, ora taxonomic unit in that rank . A subspecies cannot be recognized in isolation: a species will either be recognized as having no subspecies at all or two or more, never just one...

 of Golden Eagle that differ slightly in size and plumage
Plumage
Plumage refers both to the layer of feathers that cover a bird and the pattern, colour, and arrangement of those feathers. The pattern and colours of plumage vary between species and subspecies and can also vary between different age classes, sexes, and season. Within species there can also be a...

.
  • Aquila c. chrysaetos (Linnaeus, 1758) – The nominate subspecies. Eurasia
    Eurasia
    Eurasia is a continent or supercontinent comprising the traditional continents of Europe and Asia ; covering about 52,990,000 km2 or about 10.6% of the Earth's surface located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres...

     except Iberian peninsula
    Iberian Peninsula
    The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

    , east to western Siberia
    Siberia
    Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

    .
  • Aquila chrysaetos canadensis (Linnaeus, 1758)North America
    North America
    North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

    .
  • Aquila chrysaetos kamtschatica Severtzov, 1888 – Eastern Siberia, from the Altay
    Altay Mountains
    The Altai Mountains are a mountain range in East-Central Asia, where Russia, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan come together, and where the rivers Irtysh and Ob have their sources. The Altai Mountains are known as the original locus of the speakers of Turkic as well as other members of the proposed...

     to the Kamchatka Peninsula
    Kamchatka Peninsula
    The Kamchatka Peninsula is a peninsula in the Russian Far East, with an area of . It lies between the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Sea of Okhotsk to the west...

    . Often included in A. c. canadensis.
  • Aquila chrysaetos daphanea Severtzov, 1888 – Southern Kazakhstan
    Kazakhstan
    Kazakhstan , officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Ranked as the ninth largest country in the world, it is also the world's largest landlocked country; its territory of is greater than Western Europe...

     east to Manchuria
    Manchuria
    Manchuria is a historical name given to a large geographic region in northeast Asia. Depending on the definition of its extent, Manchuria usually falls entirely within the People's Republic of China, or is sometimes divided between China and Russia. The region is commonly referred to as Northeast...

     and south-west China
    China
    Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

    , along the Himalayas from northern Pakistan
    Pakistan
    Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

     in the west to Bhutan in the east.
  • Aquila chrysaetos homeryi Severtzov, 1888Iberian peninsula
    Iberian Peninsula
    The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

     and North Africa
    North Africa
    North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

    , east to Turkey
    Turkey
    Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

     and Iran
    Iran
    Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

    .
  • Aquila chrysaetos japonica Severtzov, 1888Japan
    Japan
    Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

     and Korea
    Korea
    Korea ) is an East Asian geographic region that is currently divided into two separate sovereign states — North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the...

    .


The larger Middle Pleistocene
Middle Pleistocene
The Middle Pleistocene, more specifically referred to as the Ionian stage, is a period of geologic time from ca. 781 to 126 thousand years ago....

 Golden Eagles of France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 (and possibly elsewhere) are referred to a paleosubspecies Aquila chrysaetos bonifacti, and the huge specimens of the Late Pleistocene
Late Pleistocene
The Late Pleistocene is a stage of the Pleistocene Epoch. The beginning of the stage is defined by the base of the Eemian interglacial phase before the final glacial episode of the Pleistocene 126,000 ± 5,000 years ago. The end of the stage is defined exactly at 10,000 Carbon-14 years BP...

 of Liko Cave (Crete
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

) have been named Aquila chrysaetos simurgh.

Feeding

The Golden Eagle is one of the most powerful predators in the avian world. While they do show strong local preferences for certain prey, Golden Eagles are first and foremost opportunists and virtually any small to mid-sized animal may be predated if encountered. Nearly 200 species of mammal and bird have been recorded as golden eagle prey. Prey selection is largely determined by the local availability and abundance of the prey species. Most prey taken are around half the weight of the predating eagle, with a typical prey weight range of 0.5–4 kg (1.1–8.8 lb). Although this eagle will sometimes fly with prey equal to or slightly heavier than their own weight (4–7 kg (8.8–15.4 lb)).

In North America and most of Europe, the predominant prey are leporids (hare
Hare
Hares and jackrabbits are leporids belonging to the genus Lepus. Hares less than one year old are called leverets. Four species commonly known as types of hare are classified outside of Lepus: the hispid hare , and three species known as red rock hares .Hares are very fast-moving...

s and rabbit
Rabbit
Rabbits are small mammals in the family Leporidae of the order Lagomorpha, found in several parts of the world...

s) and sciurids (ground squirrel
Ground squirrel
The ground squirrels are members of the squirrel family of rodents which generally live on or in the ground, rather than trees. The term is most often used for the medium-sized ground squirrels, as the larger ones are more commonly known as marmots or prairie dogs, while the smaller and less...

s, prairie dog
Prairie dog
Prairie dogs are burrowing rodents native to the grasslands of North America. There are five different species of prairie dogs: black-tailed, white-tailed, Gunnison's, Utah and Mexican prairie dogs. They are a type of ground squirrel, found in the United States, Canada and Mexico...

s, and marmot
Marmot
The marmots are a genus, Marmota, of squirrels. There are 14 species in this genus.Marmots are generally large ground squirrels. Those most often referred to as marmots tend to live in mountainous areas such as the Alps, northern Apennines, Eurasian steppes, Carpathians, Tatras, and Pyrenees in...

s). In one North American study, mammals comprised 83.9% of the eagles' diet. In Washington, the Yellow-bellied marmot
Yellow-bellied Marmot
The yellow-bellied marmot , also known as the rock chuck, is a ground squirrel in the marmot genus.-Description:...

 was eaten significantly more than other species, while in Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

  and central and alpine Eurasia, the Mountain Hare
Mountain Hare
The Mountain Hare , also known as Blue Hare, Tundra Hare, Variable Hare, White Hare, Alpine Hare and Irish Hare, is a hare, which is largely adapted to polar and mountainous habitats. It is distributed from Fennoscandia to eastern Siberia; in addition there are isolated populations in the Alps,...

 was taken far more than any other species. Additional mammals regularly taken include smaller rodent
Rodent
Rodentia is an order of mammals also known as rodents, characterised by two continuously growing incisors in the upper and lower jaws which must be kept short by gnawing....

s, such as mice
Mouse
A mouse is a small mammal belonging to the order of rodents. The best known mouse species is the common house mouse . It is also a popular pet. In some places, certain kinds of field mice are also common. This rodent is eaten by large birds such as hawks and eagles...

, mid-sized mammals such as fox
Fox
Fox is a common name for many species of omnivorous mammals belonging to the Canidae family. Foxes are small to medium-sized canids , characterized by possessing a long narrow snout, and a bushy tail .Members of about 37 species are referred to as foxes, of which only 12 species actually belong to...

es and the offspring of ungulate
Ungulate
Ungulates are several groups of mammals, most of which use the tips of their toes, usually hoofed, to sustain their whole body weight while moving. They make up several orders of mammals, of which six to eight survive...

s such as deer
Deer
Deer are the ruminant mammals forming the family Cervidae. Species in the Cervidae family include white-tailed deer, elk, moose, red deer, reindeer, fallow deer, roe deer and chital. Male deer of all species and female reindeer grow and shed new antlers each year...

, antelope
Antelope
Antelope is a term referring to many even-toed ungulate species indigenous to various regions in Africa and Eurasia. Antelopes comprise a miscellaneous group within the family Bovidae, encompassing those old-world species that are neither cattle, sheep, buffalo, bison, nor goats...

 goat
Goat
The domestic goat is a subspecies of goat domesticated from the wild goat of southwest Asia and Eastern Europe. The goat is a member of the Bovidae family and is closely related to the sheep as both are in the goat-antelope subfamily Caprinae. There are over three hundred distinct breeds of...

s and sheep. At the breeding ground of the caribou, this eagle is one of the most frequent predators of newborn or young calves. Domesticated types of ungulate young are taken as well. There is one confirmed report of a Golden Eagle snatching the cub of a Brown Bear
Brown Bear
The brown bear is a large bear distributed across much of northern Eurasia and North America. It can weigh from and its largest subspecies, the Kodiak Bear, rivals the polar bear as the largest member of the bear family and as the largest land-based predator.There are several recognized...

. For juvenile eagles, wintering eagles or eagles that have failed to breed, being able to carry off prey is less important than it is for those who are nesting and such birds are more likely to take large prey that can be left and returned to repeatedly feed on. Wild eagles have exceptionally taken ungulate prey in such circumstances weighing 30 kg (66.1 lb) or even more. Reptile
Reptile
Reptiles are members of a class of air-breathing, ectothermic vertebrates which are characterized by laying shelled eggs , and having skin covered in scales and/or scutes. They are tetrapods, either having four limbs or being descended from four-limbed ancestors...

s are rarely taken over most of the range but prey such as large snake
Snake
Snakes are elongate, legless, carnivorous reptiles of the suborder Serpentes that can be distinguished from legless lizards by their lack of eyelids and external ears. Like all squamates, snakes are ectothermic, amniote vertebrates covered in overlapping scales...

s appears to be fairly common in the southern reaches of its Asian range. During winter months when prey is scarce, Golden Eagles often scavenge on carrion.

After mammals, the secondary important prey group for Golden Eagles are other bird
Bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

s. Various gallinaceous birds
Galliformes
Galliformes are an order of heavy-bodied ground-feeding domestic or game bird, containing turkey, grouse, chicken, New and Old World Quail, ptarmigan, partridge, pheasant, and the Cracidae. Common names are gamefowl or gamebirds, landfowl, gallinaceous birds or galliforms...

 (largely phasianids
Phasianidae
The Phasianidae is a family of birds which consists of the pheasants and partridges, including the junglefowl , Old World Quail, francolins, monals and peafowl. The family is a large one, and is occasionally broken up into two subfamilies, the Phasianinae, and the Perdicinae...

 and grouse
Grouse
Grouse are a group of birds from the order Galliformes. They are sometimes considered a family Tetraonidae, though the American Ornithologists' Union and many others include grouse as a subfamily Tetraoninae in the family Phasianidae...

) are the most significant avian prey. However, virtually any bird, from a Eurasian Jay
Eurasian Jay
The Eurasian Jay is a species of bird occurring over a vast region from Western Europe and north-west Africa to the Indian Subcontinent and further to the eastern seaboard of Asia and down into south-east Asia...

 to a swan
Swan
Swans, genus Cygnus, are birds of the family Anatidae, which also includes geese and ducks. Swans are grouped with the closely related geese in the subfamily Anserinae where they form the tribe Cygnini. Sometimes, they are considered a distinct subfamily, Cygninae...

, about double the weight of an eagle, is potential prey. In Sweden, birds were found to be the primary prey, with the most common prey species being the Western Capercaillie; while in sub-Arctic regions a strong preference for rock ptarmigan has been noted. Golden Eagles are avian apex predators, meaning a healthy adult is not preyed upon. There are records of Golden Eagles killing and eating large raptors such as Gyrfalcon
Gyrfalcon
The Gyrfalcon — Falco rusticolus — is the largest of the falcon species. The Gyrfalcon breeds on Arctic coasts and the islands of North America, Europe, and Asia. It is mainly resident there also, but some Gyrfalcons disperse more widely after the breeding season, or in winter.Individual vagrancy...

s, Northern Goshawks, and Buteo hawks
Buteo
Buteo is a genus of medium to fairly large, wide-ranging raptors with a robust body and broad wings. In the Old World, members of this genus are called "buzzards", but "hawk" is used in North America...

, whether adults, nestlings or eggs. Falcon
Falcon
A falcon is any species of raptor in the genus Falco. The genus contains 37 species, widely distributed throughout Europe, Asia, and North America....

s, skuas, and Buteo
Buteo
Buteo is a genus of medium to fairly large, wide-ranging raptors with a robust body and broad wings. In the Old World, members of this genus are called "buzzards", but "hawk" is used in North America...

s
like Rough-legged Hawks, which are normally competitors, have worked together to group-mob Golden Eagles that have passed their adjacent nesting areas. In one instance, a Golden Eagle flying in towards a Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon
The Peregrine Falcon , also known as the Peregrine, and historically as the Duck Hawk in North America, is a widespread bird of prey in the family Falconidae. A large, crow-sized falcon, it has a blue-gray back, barred white underparts, and a black head and "moustache"...

 nest was struck and killed by a swooping parent falcon, a reversal of fortune for the falcon given that the much larger eagle is usually dominant over (and a potential predator of) them. More commonly, Golden Eagles kleptoparasitize
Kleptoparasitism
Kleptoparasitism or cleptoparasitism is a form of feeding in which one animal takes prey or other food from another that has caught, collected, or otherwise prepared the food, including stored food...

, or steal prey, from other raptors. While not as large as some vultures, Golden Eagles are usually considerably more aggressive and are capable of driving vultures and other raptors from carrion. Interspecies competition occurs regularly with large Haliaeetus eagles (principally White-tailed
White-tailed Eagle
The White-tailed Eagle , also known as the Sea Eagle, Erne , or White-tailed Sea-eagle, is a large bird of prey in the family Accipitridae which includes other raptors such as hawks, kites, and harriers...

 and Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle
The Bald Eagle is a bird of prey found in North America. It is the national bird and symbol of the United States of America. This sea eagle has two known sub-species and forms a species pair with the White-tailed Eagle...

s) and victory in such conflicts depends on the individual eagle rather than on species.

Reproduction

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. Even with eggs and small nestlings predation on the Golden Eagle is rare. The only known predators of Golden Eagle nests are wolverine
Wolverine
The wolverine, pronounced , Gulo gulo , also referred to as glutton, carcajou, skunk bear, or quickhatch, is the largest land-dwelling species of the family Mustelidae . It is a stocky and muscular carnivore, more closely resembling a small bear than other mustelids...

s and brown bear
Brown Bear
The brown bear is a large bear distributed across much of northern Eurasia and North America. It can weigh from and its largest subspecies, the Kodiak Bear, rivals the polar bear as the largest member of the bear family and as the largest land-based predator.There are several recognized...

s.

Status and conservation

At one time, the Golden Eagle lived in temperate Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, North Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

, North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

, North Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, and Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

. In most areas this bird is now a mountain-dweller, but in former centuries it also bred in the plains and the forests. In recent years it has started to breed in lowland areas again, e.g., in Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 and Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

.

There was a great decline in Central Europe
Central Europe
Central Europe or alternatively Middle Europe is a region of the European continent lying between the variously defined areas of Eastern and Western Europe...

 where they are now essentially restricted to the Apennine
Apennine mountains
The Apennines or Apennine Mountains or Greek oros but just as often used alone as a noun. The ancient Greeks and Romans typically but not always used "mountain" in the singular to mean one or a range; thus, "the Apennine mountain" refers to the entire chain and is translated "the Apennine...

, Alps
Alps
The Alps is one of the great mountain range systems of Europe, stretching from Austria and Slovenia in the east through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west....

, and Carpathian Mountains
Carpathian Mountains
The Carpathian Mountains or Carpathians are a range of mountains forming an arc roughly long across Central and Eastern Europe, making them the second-longest mountain range in Europe...

. In Britain, the last comprehensive survey of Golden Eagles took place in 2003, and found 442 occupied territories. A less thorough survey in 2007 showed that in addition to large numbers of territories in the Scottish Highlands and the Inner and Outer Hebrides, there were a handful of birds in southern Scotland and northern England. Between 1969 and 2003 they nested in the Lake District
Lake District
The Lake District, also commonly known as The Lakes or Lakeland, is a mountainous region in North West England. A popular holiday destination, it is famous not only for its lakes and its mountains but also for its associations with the early 19th century poetry and writings of William Wordsworth...

, Cumbria.

In Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

, where it had been extinct due to hunting since 1912, efforts are being made to re-introduce the species. Forty-six birds were released into the wild in Glenveagh National Park, County Donegal
County Donegal
County Donegal is a county in Ireland. It is part of the Border Region and is also located in the province of Ulster. It is named after the town of Donegal. Donegal County Council is the local authority for the county...

, from 2001 to 2006, with at least three known female fatalities since then. It is intended to release a total of sixty birds, to ensure a viable population. In April 2007, a pair of Golden Eagles produced the first chick to be hatched in the Republic of Ireland in nearly a century. The previous attempt to help the birds breed at the Glenveagh National Park had failed.

In North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 the situation is not as dramatic, but there has still been a noticeable decline. The main threat is habitat destruction
Habitat destruction
Habitat destruction is the process in which natural habitat is rendered functionally unable to support the species present. In this process, the organisms that previously used the site are displaced or destroyed, reducing biodiversity. Habitat destruction by human activity mainly for the purpose of...

 which by the late 19th century already had driven Golden Eagles from some regions they used to inhabit. In the 20th century, organochloride
Organochloride
An organochloride, organochlorine, chlorocarbon, chlorinated hydrocarbon, or chlorinated solvent is an organic compound containing at least one covalently bonded chlorine atom. Their wide structural variety and divergent chemical properties lead to a broad range of applications...

 and heavy metal poisonings were also commonplace, but these have declined thanks to tighter regulations on pollution
Pollution
Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into a natural environment that causes instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem i.e. physical systems or living organisms. Pollution can take the form of chemical substances or energy, such as noise, heat or light...

. Within the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, the Golden Eagle is legally protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act
Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act
The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act is a legislation in the United States of America that protects two species of eagle. The Bald Eagle was chosen as a national emblem of the United States by the Continental Congress of 1782 and was given legal protection by the Bald Eagle Protection Act of...

.

Available habitat and food are the main limiting factor nowadays. Collisions with power lines have become an increasingly significant cause of mortality since the early 20th century. On a global scale, the Golden Eagle is not considered threatened by the IUCN mainly thanks to the large Asian and American populations.

In human culture

Falconry

Golden Eagles have been used in falconry since the Middle Ages. In Asia, they were used in teams to hunt such animals as deer, antelope and wolves, while their use was reserved for Emperors in Europe. They can be trained for falconry
Falconry
Falconry is "the taking of wild quarry in its natural state and habitat by means of a trained raptor". There are two traditional terms used to describe a person involved in falconry: a falconer flies a falcon; an austringer flies a hawk or an eagle...

.

Heraldry

The Golden Eagle is the most common national animal in the world, with five nations—Albania
Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

, Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

, Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 and Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan , officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Ranked as the ninth largest country in the world, it is also the world's largest landlocked country; its territory of is greater than Western Europe...

—making it the national animal. It is also a common motif in the national symbols of countries that have not officially made it the national animal or national bird. The reasons for this are various, but among the nations that use the Golden Eagle as or in a state symbol, there are two clear traditions that help explain the modern usage. Among European countries, the Golden Eagle was the model for the aquila
Aquila (Roman)
The Aquila was the eagle standard of a Roman legion, carried by a special grade legionary known as an Aquilifer. One eagle standard was carried by each legion.-History:...

, the most prominent symbol of the Roman legion
Roman legion
A Roman legion normally indicates the basic ancient Roman army unit recruited specifically from Roman citizens. The organization of legions varied greatly over time but they were typically composed of perhaps 5,000 soldiers, divided into maniples and later into "cohorts"...

s and more generally the Roman civilization
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 that had such a powerful impact on Western culture
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

; furthermore, some Roman traditions were carried on by the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 in the Southern and Eastern of Europe and the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 in Central and Western Europe, transmitting the use of the Golden Eagle to several modern states. This association of the Golden Eagle with Rome has also led to the adoption of similar symbols in other countries; for instance, the adoption of the related and physically similar Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle
The Bald Eagle is a bird of prey found in North America. It is the national bird and symbol of the United States of America. This sea eagle has two known sub-species and forms a species pair with the White-tailed Eagle...

 as the national bird of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 was inspired by the conception of the United States as a modern reincarnation of the Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

, a theme that recurs in other elements as well (including the prevalence of neoclassical architecture
Neoclassical architecture
Neoclassical architecture was an architectural style produced by the neoclassical movement that began in the mid-18th century, manifested both in its details as a reaction against the Rococo style of naturalistic ornament, and in its architectural formulas as an outgrowth of some classicizing...

 in American public buildings and the use of Roman terminology—such as naming the upper house of Congress the Senate—to hark back to the Roman model).

Another large tradition of using the Golden Eagle can be found in the Arab world
Arab world
The Arab world refers to Arabic-speaking states, territories and populations in North Africa, Western Asia and elsewhere.The standard definition of the Arab world comprises the 22 states and territories of the Arab League stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Arabian Sea in the...

, where the eagle is historically a symbol of power in Arabic poetry
Arabic poetry
Arabic poetry is the earliest form of Arabic literature. Present knowledge of poetry in Arabic dates from the 6th century, but oral poetry is believed to predate that. Arabic poetry is categorized into two main types, rhymed, or measured, and prose, with the former greatly preceding the latter...

, and was according to legend the personal emblem of Saladin
Saladin
Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb , better known in the Western world as Saladin, was an Arabized Kurdish Muslim, who became the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria, and founded the Ayyubid dynasty. He led Muslim and Arab opposition to the Franks and other European Crusaders in the Levant...

. The specific depiction of Golden Eagle legendarily considered to be Saladin's was adopted by the Arab nationalist
Arab nationalism
Arab nationalism is a nationalist ideology celebrating the glories of Arab civilization, the language and literature of the Arabs, calling for rejuvenation and political union in the Arab world...

 movement, and currently appears on the arms of Egypt
Coat of arms of Egypt
The coat of arms of Egypt is a golden eagle looking towards the viewer's left .-Appearance:The "Eagle of Saladin" holds a scroll on which the name of the state appears in Arabic script, Gumhūriyyat Miṣr al-ʿArabiyyah . The eagle carries on its breast a shield with the flag's colors — but...

, Iraq
Coat of arms of Iraq
The coat of arms or state emblem of Iraq is a golden black eagle looking towards the viewer's left dexter. The eagle is the Eagle of Saladin associated with 20th-century pan-Arabism, bearing a shield of the Iraqi flag, and holding a scroll below with the Arabic words الجمهورية العراقية .- History...

, and Palestine
Coat of arms of the Palestinian National Authority
The Coat of Arms of the Palestinian National Authority is the coat of arms used by the Palestinian National Authority. It features the Pan-Arab colours of the Palestinian flag on a shield carried by the Eagle of Saladin...

; it had previously appeared on the arms of the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen
People's Democratic Republic of Yemen
The People's Democratic Republic of Yemen — also referred to as South Yemen, Democratic Yemen or Yemen — was a socialist republic in the present-day southern and eastern Provinces of Yemen...

 (1967–1990) and on the arms
Coat of arms of Libya
After the collapse of the Gaddafi regime in the 2011 Libyan civil war, Libya currently does not have an official coat of arms.The National Transitional Council uses a seal or logo to represent itself, but while its Constitutional Declaration of August 2011 defines the flag of Libya, it does not...

 of the Libyan Arab Republic (1970–1972). The current emblem of Yemen displays a Golden Eagle, but it is not that of Saladin.

In North America

The eagle is a sacred bird in some cultures and the feathers of the eagle are central to many religious and spiritual customs, especially among some Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 and First Nations
First Nations
First Nations is a term that collectively refers to various Aboriginal peoples in Canada who are neither Inuit nor Métis. There are currently over 630 recognised First Nations governments or bands spread across Canada, roughly half of which are in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia. The...

 in Canada, as well as among many of the peoples of Meso-America. Some Native American peoples revere eagles as sacred and the feathers and other parts of Bald and Golden Eagles. Feathers are often worn on Native American headdresses and have been compared to the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 and crucifix
Crucifix
A crucifix is an independent image of Jesus on the cross with a representation of Jesus' body, referred to in English as the corpus , as distinct from a cross with no body....

 of Christianity. Eagle feathers are often used in various Native ceremonies and are used to honour noteworthy achievements and qualities such as exceptional leadership and bravery. The Golden Eagle is thought to be the origin of the Thunderbird
Thunderbird (mythology)
The Thunderbird is a legendary creature in certain North American indigenous peoples' history and culture. It is considered a "supernatural" bird of power and strength...

 legends of the southwestern United States,

Current United States eagle feather law
Eagle feather law
The eagle feather law provides many exceptions to federal wildlife laws regarding eagles and other migratory birds to enable Native Americans to continue their traditional practices....

 (50 CFR
Code of Federal Regulations
The Code of Federal Regulations is the codification of the general and permanent rules and regulations published in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government of the United States.The CFR is published by the Office of the Federal Register, an agency...

 22) stipulates that only individuals of certifiable Native American ancestry enrolled in a federally recognized tribe are legally authorized to obtain eagle feathers for religious or spiritual use. Thus, the supply of eagle material for traditional ceremonial use can be guaranteed and ceremonial eagle items can be passed on as heirloom
Heirloom
In popular usage, an heirloom is something, perhaps an antique or some kind of jewelry, that has been passed down for generations through family members....

s by their traditional owners without the restrictions that would usually apply. Commercial trade in Golden Eagles or their feathers or body parts is not legalized by these exceptions.

Postage stamps

The Golden Eagle is the eighth-most common bird depicted on postage stamps with 155 stamps issued by 71 stamp-issuing entities.

Other

J.R.R. Tolkien used an image of an immature Golden Eagle from T. A. Coward's 1919 work The Birds of the British Isles and Their Eggs for an illustration depicting Bilbo awaking next to Gwaihir.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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