Cascades Raptor Center

Resident Raptor - Golden Eagle


Amazon Amazon  A larger eagle, broke both her wings in June 1995, when she fell from her nest at about one month of age. The right wing healed perfectly, but the left wing, which had an open fracture with exposed bone ends, maggots, and a major infection, did not, leaving her incapable of flight. She cannot be returned to the wild because of her injuries.
Adopt Amazon

Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)

A very large, dark to medium-brown bird with a Courtesy of Brian Lanker golden head and nape. Females are larger than males, though plumages are similar. The entire upperside of the adult bird is dark brown, underside a slightly paler brown, with a buffy color on the legs, which are feathered to the yellow feet. Irregular, indistinct dark gray bands on tail. Head is relatively smaller than that of a Bald Eagle; the eyes are hazel to dark brown; the beak is dark. It takes four years and several molts for these birds to reach maturity. Juvenile birds have broader wings and longer tails than adults as well as plumage differences, including patterns of Courtesy of Barbara Gleason whitish areas on the feathers, and a tail pattern of a distinctive broad white band and terminal black band. In flight, the wingbeats are strong, slow, shallow, and smooth. Golden Eagles soar in a slight dihedral, glide with wingtips up, and can dive on prey at speeds up to 200 mph.


Size - Length: 27-33" • Wing Span: 72-87" • Weight: 6.6-14 lb.

Status - State and federally protected both under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, as are all native birds, and the Bald and Golden Eagle Act.

Habitat - Open mountainous regions of the west, including high deserts, rangelands, canyonlands, tundra, alpine areas, open woodlands, to southwestern deserts. Often distant from water, and from low elevations up to 8,000 feet. Uses open areas in any season for hunting; in breeding season needs suitable cliffs, bluffs, rocky outcrops or trees for nesting.

Diet - Golden Eagles eat a variety of small to medium-sized mammals up to the size of deer fawn, and also take gamebirds, snakes, lizards. Almost all prey is captured on the ground. They will eat carrion, but only rarely attack healthy large mammals. These eagles will take dead or dying lambs, and for this reason are often harassed by ranchers.

Call - Usually quiet, but has a variety of calls: an occasional kya...kya...kya in flight; a weak high series of kee-yep, keeyep greeting between mates; a strong, screaming kikikikiki alarm call.

Golden Eagle Release Nesting - Enormous stick nests are built on rocky crags, cliffs, and in trees in some areas. Some mated pairs return to the same nest each year, others alternate between several nests. The same nests can be used over many generations of eagles, growing larger each year. If the location allows it, the nest can become really gigantic -- as much as 8 to 10 feet across by 3 to 4 feet deep.

Most Common Problems - Collision with vehicles; electrocution and hitting power lines, especially in the dry habitat these large birds inhabit where trees are scarce and power poles can provide a good hunting perch. Poisonings: lead poisoning from lead shot mammals they might scavenge, rodenticides used to kill prairie dogs or other ground-dwelling mammals whose burrows are deemed a hazard to livestock, and poisoned bait for control of coyotes.

  ANCA Member

Cascades Raptor Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization (Federal ID No. 93-1038827) dedicated to wildlife rescue and public education to enhance appreciation, respect, and stewardship of the natural world.


CRC logo art by Jeanne Hammond-Elliott.  Drawings by Barbara Gleason & Karl Edwards.  Photographic sources noted as provided.