Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)

Golden Eagle

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Aquila chrysaetos | [authority] Linnaeus, 1758 | [UK] Golden Eagle | [FR] Aigle royal | [DE] Steinadler | [ES] Aguila Real | [NL] Steenarend


Monotypic species


Members of the genus Aquila have long, broad wings and a medium tail. There are currently fourteen species of large predominantly dark-coloured eagles in the genus Aquila. This genus has a worldwide distribution.

Physical charateristics

This majestic eagle, with gliding or soaring flight is named for its golden- brown plumage, with head and nape feathers a slightly lighter, gold color. Measuring 70-84 cm in length, the golden eagle has a wingspan of 2 m and weighs 3.2-6.4 kg. Adults have a heavy dark tipped bill. The immature golden in flight can be distinguished from the immature bald eagle by the presence of distinct white patches on the underside of the wing and by a broad white tail with dark band. The most notable field mark is the presence of feathers on the legs of golden eagles all the way down to the toes.

Listen to the sound of Golden Eagle

[audio: Eagle.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 190 cm wingspan max.: 225 cm
size min.: 80 cm size max.: 93 cm
incubation min.: 43 days incubation max.: 45 days
fledging min.: 65 days fledging max.: 45 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 3  


North America, Middle America, Eurasia : widespread


Typically the species occupies mountain landscapes where tree cover is sparse or fragmented. Such lowland birds are exclusively tree-nesting, but elsewhere nests are predominantly on cliffs. They often returning annually to the same nest. Though nesting territories may be occupied yearly, there are generally several nest sites in the area that are used on different years. These nests may be over 0.5 miles apart. Alternate nests range from 1 to 11 per territory.


Nests are constructed of large twigs or roots and can be lined with moss, bark, fur or other soft material. The nest may become huge, as much as 8 to 10 feet across and 3 to 4 feet deep. Eggs are laid between February and May (or May to June in the Arctic) commonly two per nest, although up to four eggs could be laid in one clutch. Incubation time is 43 to 45 days. Usually, the female does most of the incubating. The first born eaglet is aggressive against the weaker younger sibling and attacks it, does not let it feed, until the younger chick dies. This phenomenon is called kainism.

The young will fledge when 72 to 84 days old, and depend upon their parents for another 3 months. Then the young will either migrate or move out of the parents’ territory but overwinter in their natal area.In winter, large groups of Golden Eagles may flock together.

Feeding habits

Food is diverse, including mammals, birds of different species, snakes and other reptiles and tortoises (Testudo). They will also feed on carrion.

Video Golden Eagle


copyright: NGC


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
This eagle inhabits a major part of Eurasia, northern Africa and North America. In Europe it has inhabited nearly the whole continent, but in many regions it has disappeared following persecution and in-depth changes in land use practices. In the Iberian Peninsula and Greece this regression is still in progress. In Scotland its population seems to be quite stable. In the Alps a definite increase has been noticed since about 20 years. The total population of the European Union was estimated at 2500 breeding pairs in 1995. the Golden Eagle is now restricted to the higher central Apennines regions of Italy (the regional capital of Abruzzo is named after the Latin/Italian word for eagle, L’Aquila), and the Alps. In Britain, there are about 420 pairs left in the Scottish highlands, and between 1969 and 2004 they bred in the English Lake District. In North America the situation is not as dramatic, but there has still been a noticeable decline. Efforts are being made to re-introduce the species in Glenveagh National Park, County Donegal, Ireland, where they had been extinct since the early 20th Century. Forty-six birds have been released into the wild 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.
Golden Eagle status Least Concern


Generally sedentary; mainly migratory in northernmost parts of range, both in North America and in Asia, where in winter prey may be scarce or inaccessible, e.g. hibernating ground squirrels. In North America, migrants leave breeding grounds from September; most winter in West USA, but South to Mexico, some in areas with resident populations too; return starts February, and lasts months, with juveniles returning latest. Sedentary adult pairs normally stay in approximately same home range throughout year. Juveniles markedly more dispersive and travel further.

Distribution map

Golden Eagle distribution range map


Title Distribution pattern among Golden Eagle Aquila chrys tos and Bonelli`s Eagle Hiera tus fasciatus in the Castelln province.
Author(s): Pascual Lpez-Lpez, Clara Garca-Ripolls, Francisco Garcia-LpeZ, Jos Miguel Aguilar & Jos Verdejo
Abstract: Aims: Spatial distribution patterns of Golden Eagl..[more]..
Source: Ardeola 51(2), 2004, 275-283

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Title The diet of young Golden Eagles Aquila chrysaetos in Corsica: Foraging in a man-made mammal fauna
Author(s): Seguin J.F., Thibault J.C., Torre J., Bayle P. & Vigne JD
Abstract: The diet of young Golden Eagles Aquila chrysaetos ..[more]..
Source: ARDEA 89 (3): 527-535

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Title The occurrence of reindeer calves in the diet of nesting Golden Eagles in Finnmark, northern Norway
Author(s): T.V. Johnsen, G.H. Systad, K.O. Jacobsen, T. Nygrd & J.O. Bustnes
Abstract: To assess the importance of semi-domesticated rein..[more]..
Source: Ornis Fennica 84:112-118. 2007

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Title Eagles on the Swedish mountain tundra-diet and breeding success in relation to prey fluctuations
Author(s): J. Nystrm, J. Ekenstedt, A. Angerbjrn, L. Thulin, P. Hellstrm & L. Daln
Abstract: We studied the diet and the relationship between p..[more]..
Source: Ornis Fennica 83:145-152. 2006

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