Aquila chrysaetos (Latin: aquila, an eagle. Greek: khrusos, gold; aetos, an eagle)
Six recognized, ranging throughout at least the northern two thirds of the northern hemisphere; only one subspecies in U.S. (A. c. canadensis
Ranges from desert to tundra and from sea level to mountains, but in summer tends toward the more hilly and alpine environments. Generally prefers open, deserted, and sparsely vegetated terrain to heavily wooded areas.
Prefers rodents (rats, squirrels, etc.) and rabbits; will take foxes and small cats. Songbirds, cranes, storks, and swans are taken, but prefers game birds, such as grouse. Less frequent prey includes lizards, snakes, and turtles, often dropping the latter onto rocks to break their shells. Carrion (including domestic stock and deer or antelope) is utilized, especially in winter. Soaring low or high, rather than perching, prey is usually captured on the ground, although in special circumstances (when being harassed by aggressive birds, for example), they will catch “food” in mid air. Hunting from the wing, the Golden Eagle can swoop up to 100 mph. Sometimes pairs hunt together.
February – May. Eyries, several per pair, used alternatively. Long term pairing, bonding each year with spectacular aerial displays of talon locking and tumbling. The stick nest, lined with greenery (often with aromatic vegetation to deter insect pests), can be 6 – 7 feet wide and deep with repeated use. Nest location varies by region, and includes cliff ledges, crags, and trees (10’ –100’ high nest placement). Clutch is 1 – 4 eggs.
Generally sedentary (juveniles do disperse), except in northern most populations where winter food may be scarce. In North America, fall migration starts in September; most winter in western U.S. south to Mexico. Spring return commences in February, and lasts for months, with juveniles returning last.
Not globally threatened. Were heavily persecuted in past, but banning of poisons and protection have permitted increase, or at least stabilization, in many countries. U.S. population is most stable in West, where human interference is less and required environmental habitat has not been significantly destroyed or altered.