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Golden Eagle

Aquila chrysaetos

Family:

Accipitridae, hawk and eagle family

Conservation Status:

Least Concern IUCN.

Distribution:

North America and Eurasia.

Habitat:

Nests in mountain habitats, hunts in open country.

Factoid:

Golden eagles were very important to many American Indian cultures as symbols of power and strength, and the feathers were used in rituals and costumes.

The backs of their necks are gold, their huge beaks are black, and their legs are feathered down to their yellow feet, which end in long, black talons. Females are larger than males. Their flight is steady, flat-winged soaring, with wingtip feathers up. Immature eagles’ tails have white bases and white patches under the wings.

Eagles are diurnal predators, eating ground squirrels, rabbits and other small mammals, sometimes birds, reptiles, and often carrion. As top of the food chain, their only threat is man.

They mate for life, but when one dies, the survivor finds a new mate. Courtship includes spectacular vertical dives and upward swoops. Enormous nests of sticks are built in cliffs or tall trees, and one to three eggs are laid. The pair spends 2 months hunting to feed their young until they fledge and can hunt on their own.

When hunting, they soar over mountain slopes, making use of thermals so effectively that no flapping is required to search for prey which their sharp eyes can locate from 2 miles away. Binocular vision provides excellent depth perception while additional visual cells provide incredibly acute focus and magnification. Their rapid dive can reach 150 mph if started from great altitude.

 

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