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Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle
Class: Aves
Order: Falconiformes
Family: Accipitridae
Subfamily: Buteoninae
Genus: Aquila

Length: 27-33 in.
Weight: 7-14 lbs. (females larger than males)
Wingspan: 72-87 in.
Common Name: black eagle, brown eagle, calumet eagle, mountain eagle
Etymology: aquila (Latin) - "an eagle"; chrysaetos (Greek) - "a golden eagle"
Description: Golden eagles are dark with a gold patch behind the head and neck. The head is smaller and the tail appears longer than the bald eagle's. Immature golden eagles in flight flash white underneath at the base of the primary feathers and at the base of the tail. Golden eagles are "booted," their legs are feathered to the toes. Plumages of both sexes are similar; females usually have a wider and more distinct sub-terminal band.

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Flight, Voice, and Habitat:

Golden eagle active flight is with slow wing beats. Golden eagles are masterful flyers, often hunting from the air and soaring on strong currents. They can stoop at high speeds and have been reported to attain speeds greater than the peregrine falcon in a dive.

High-pitched kee-kee-kee or a high scream or squeal. However, they are usually silent.

Golden eagles are normally a western bird. They generally occur in lightly forested areas or in forests with open areas nearby. They favor mountain or hilly habitats, where upwind drafts help these large birds to takeoff and soar.


Golden eagle eyries are usually located in a commanding position on a rocky cliff or in towering oaks, sycamores, or pine. Their nests are large and bulky, made of branches, roots, and plant stems, lined with hay, green grass, leaves, or bark. They usually lay two white, lightly blotched eggs with shades of cinnamon. The female does the incubating, but the male assists by bringing his mate food. Incubation lasts 43-45 days, and hatching can take more than a day. Golden eagles are very sensitive to human disturbance during nesting.


Widely distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere, the majority of the North American birds are found west of Texas, and Canada also has a healthy population. They are also occasionally seen in the Adirondacks and the southern Appalachians.


Golden eagles use several different methods to capture prey, depending on the type of prey. Perch and wait, including ground perching, and soaring and low level flight are the most common methods used. When attacking prey, the golden eagle often uses one foot to catch food. If the prey is large, one foot grabs the head, while the talons of the other foot are driven into the lungs and other soft parts of the body. The beak is generally not used for killing prey. Golden eagles are mammal eaters, with 90% of their prey caught at ground level. 70-90% of their prey is rodents and rabbits, but golden eagles will also take Dall and mountain sheep, squirrels, caribou, coyotes, cranes, swans, immature peregrine falcons, snakes, frogs and fish. They have a success rate of about 30%, and the smaller and more agile males are often more successful on solo hunts. While they can kill large prey, golden eagles have difficulty carrying large prey because of their own heavy body weight. They may typically carry about 2-3 pounds.

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