Golden Eagles

Because it flies so skilfully and majestically, the golden eagle is also known as the “king of the skies”.


What do golden eagles look like?

Adult golden eagles have dark brown plumage – in some animals, the head is colored golden brown. The wings and the rectangular-shaped tail are also dark, only the young golden eagles have white feathers on the underside of the wings. The tail has a wide white stripe and a black horizontal stripe at the end.

The golden eagle’s beak is strong and curved. The females are 90 to 95 centimeters long and have a wingspan of up to 230 centimeters. The males are a bit smaller: they only grow to 80 to 87 centimeters and their wingspan is only up to 210 centimeters. Females weigh between four and six and a half kilograms, the males only between three and four and a half kilograms.

This makes golden eagles the second-largest eagles in Germany. Only the white-tailed eagles get a little bigger. Golden eagles are also fairly easy to spot in flight: they carry their heads far forward and their wings are lifted slightly upwards in a V-shape. Golden eagles have excellent eyesight. With their keen eyesight, they spot their prey from great heights.

Where do golden eagles live?

Golden eagles are found in Europe, North Africa, Asia, and North America. In Europe, however, they only occur in a few places today: They still breed in the Alps, in Scandinavia, in Finland, and in the Baltic States. In western and central Europe, golden eagles only live in the mountains. In Germany, around 45 to 50 pairs of golden eagles breed in the Alps.

Golden eagles mostly live in rocky and forested areas. They also inhabit forest edges. Golden eagles love lonely areas and avoid being close to humans.

What species is the golden eagle related to?

The closest relatives of the golden eagle are imperial, greater spotted, steppe and lesser spotted eagles. It is most similar to the slightly larger white-tailed eagle.

How old do golden eagles get?

Golden eagles live up to 20 years.


How do golden eagles live?

Golden eagles are loners. You live with your partner in a lifelong single marriage. Most of the time they have a fixed, very large territory, which they fiercely defend against intruders. In winter it is mating season. Then the golden eagles fly exuberantly through the air. They can be carried high into the air in spirals and then fall down with folded wings, catch the fall and fly back up with rapid momentum.

Golden eagles build their eyries (as their nests are called) on high ledges, sometimes in trees. There they are protected from predators. However, the nests are usually not too high, so that they are protected from the harsh winds. In addition, it is easier for golden eagles to carry their prey, which they usually kill high up in the mountains, downwards in gliding flight. Golden eagles use their nests repeatedly over several years.

The nests are built from twigs and sticks. They are constantly being improved and enlarged. After a few years, an eagle’s nest can be two meters in diameter and two meters high. Some pairs build several nests: There can be between seven and ten nests, which the eagle pair uses alternately.

Friends and foes of the golden eagle

In the 19th century, golden eagles were hunted so heavily by humans in Central Europe that they were almost wiped out. In addition, the shells of the eggs became thinner and thinner due to environmental toxins, so that the young could no longer develop.

How do golden eagles reproduce?

Breeds between March and June. The female lays one to three eggs and incubates for 43 to 45 days. During this time it is fed by the male. Young eagles take a long time to grow up. They stay in the nest for 65 to 80 days. In the first few weeks, the male brings his prey to the nest. There the mother tears the prey into small pieces and feeds it to the young. When the young have their proper plumage after about five weeks, they remain alone in the nest for most of the day.

The parent animals go hunting and then place the prey on the edge of the eyrie. Golden eagles usually have two young. Usually, one of the two eats more grows faster, and gets stronger. The second young often fall by the wayside as a “runt”. If the weather is cold and harsh and food is scarce, the second young will die.

When the young are big enough, they start training their flight muscles: they flap their wings wildly in the nest so that their muscles become strong and strong. At the end of July or beginning of August, the time has come: the young eagle’s plumage has grown, its muscles are strong enough and it takes off on its first flight.

Sometimes the young are fed by their parents until the end of the year. By next February at the latest, however, they must be independent and will be driven out of the territory by their parents.

But the young eagles only really grow up and become sexually mature at the age of six. During this time, some eagles often fly many thousands of kilometers. Eventually, they find a partner and together they look for their own territory.

How do golden eagles hunt?

Golden eagles surprise their prey: if they spot a suitable animal, they pounce on it and kill it in the air or on the ground. Golden eagles can even roll onto their backs in mid-air, allowing them to grab prey from below. The pairs often hunt together: an eagle chases the prey until it is tired. Then the partner kills the exhausted animal.

Golden eagles hunt prey weighing up to 15 kilograms. Larger animals will only eat them if they find them carrion. The golden eagle can grab prey weighing up to five kilograms with its claws and carry it to its eyrie in flight. He leaves larger animals where they are and always returns to eat.

How do golden eagles communicate?

Golden eagles let out a harsh “hijäh” or “check-check” repeated several times.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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