Common Name
GOLDEN EAGLE

Scientific Name
AQUILA CHRYSAETOS

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Photo by Lynn Chamberlain
Photo Copyright Lynn Chamberlain

The golden eagle, Aquila chrysaetos, breeds across western North America, from Alaska south to northern Mexico. Populations in the northern parts of the breeding range migrate south for winter, but most populations in the western United States are year-round residents of the same area. This species is also seen rarely in the eastern United States. It is quite common in Utah.

Typically this eagle is found in open country, especially in mountainous regions. It feeds mainly on small mammals, especially rabbits, marmots, and ground squirrels, but it also eats insects, snakes, birds, juvenile ungulates, and carrion. Rarely, this bird attacks large, healthy mammals. At times, pairs may hunt cooperatively. Nests are constructed on cliffs or in large trees. Pairs are monogamous and often use the same nest in consecutive years, but some pairs may use alternate nests some years. Eggs are laid from late February to early March in Utah. Most often two eggs are laid, but clutches may contain one egg, three eggs, or rarely four eggs. The eggs are incubated mostly by the female and hatch after 43 to 45 days. Young can fly after 60 to 77 days and are cared for by the parents for at least 30 days after fledging. The young may remain with the parents for several months. Birds first breed at an age of 4 or 5 years.

Sources:

  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder's handbook: a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon and Shuster, Inc., New York. xxx + 785 pp.

  • Baicich, P. J., and C. J. O. Harrison. 1997. A guide to the nests, eggs, and nestlings of North American Birds, Second Ed. Academic Press, San Diego. 347 pp.

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