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Golden Eagle

The Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), magnificent and powerful

Golden Eagle © Pete Walkden
Golden Eagle © Pete Walkden

Mainly dark brown in colour, with lighter yellow/brown/amber nape that gives the eagle its name.  This is a large bird, with broad, long wings that narrow at the base, and a long fan shaped tail. Plumage varies according to the age of the bird with more white being visible on the wings and tail of younger birds.

Length: 80 – 93cm; wingspan: 190 – 225cm

Status in UK
442 pairs in 2003 national survey, 422 in 1992 and 424 in 1982 so populations at the time stable; AMBER listed; resident

Population Trends

Population decline in the UK began in the 1700’s, initially due to persecution by sheep farmers and later by gamekeepers. By the mid 1800’s the Golden Eagle was extinct in England and Wales and also in Ireland by the early part of the 1900’s. They suffered badly in the 1950’s from the effects of organochlorine pesticides but numbers have increased in Scotland since these were banned. Illegal persecution, disturbance of nesting sites and egg collectors still contribute to breeding failures.

Habitat and Distribution
Golden eagles are found in low densities in remote areas of the Scottish Highlands, the Hebrides and the Lake District where one pair has bred in recent years.

Breeding
Pairs maintain home ranges with several potential nest sites; these can be used for many years, with extra layers being added to create huge nests in trees or cliffs. Typically birds do not mate until they are 4 or 5 years old and lay clutches of 2 or 3 eggs, although in many cases only one chick will survive to fledge – of these, mortality is high and less than 1 in 4 is thought to survive through to old age.

Feeding
Mammals; especially brown hares and rabbits, birds; especially grouse and ptarmigan. In areas with little live prey, carrion is readily accepted. Coastal pairs will take sea birds such a gulls and Fulmar.

Other Diurnal Birds of Prey