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threatened and/or endangered

Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos


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Golden Eagle, adult
credit: J. Glover - Atlanta, Georgia/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Accipitridae, Hawks and Eagles view all from this family

Description ADULT Has mainly dark brown plumage, with paler margins to feathers on back, and golden-brown feathers on head and neck. Tail is dark-tipped and barred but, in flight and against the sky, it can look uniformly dark. JUVENILE Similar to adult but note striking white patches at base of outer flight feathers; tail is white with a broad, dark tip. SUBADULT Gradually loses white elements of juvenile plumage by successive molts over several years.

Dimensions Length: 30-41" (76-104 cm); Wngspn: 6' 6" (2 m)

Habitat Favors mountains and hilly terrain, typically soaring over hilltops and hunting over bare slopes and open plains; often at lower altitudes in winter. Widespread summer visitor (mainly May-Sep) to northern Canada; winters across much of central North America. Be advised, however, that most sightings will involve rather distant views of soaring individuals or birds patrolling ridges, riding the updrafts.

Range Northwest, California, Plains, Western Canada, New England, Rocky Mountains, Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Alaska, Texas, Eastern Canada, Florida, Southwest

Voice Mainly silent.

Discussion A large and majestic raptor. Seen distantly, it could be confused with certain soaring Buteo raptors. However, even in silhouette, a closer view reveals Golden Eagle's proportionately long wings (which narrow towards base) and relatively long tail. An active predator, it catches live prey typically the size of hares and ptarmigan; also feeds on carrion, especially in winter. Sexes are similar but adults, juveniles, and immature subadults are separable with care.