Golden Eagle
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Knowledge and Facts:

One of only two kinds of eagle to breed in North America, the majestic golden eagle provided the feathers for war bonnets for the plains indians. The golden eagle is one of the largest and most regal birds of prey. But it has long been persecuted, especially by some farmers, who have long held the mistake belief that it kills farm animals and poultry.

Habitat: A large bird that hunts from the air, the golden eagle is most at home in wide open spaces. Today, although it can be found among the forest and wetlands of eastern Asia, Europe, and North America, it inhabits mountains and moors where there is little cover for its prey..

Breeding: Golden eagles usually build their nests, called aeries, on rocky ledges, cliffs, or trees. In some places eagles have used the same rocky ledges for hundreds of years. Nests in trees are often reused and expanded every year. When courting, the male flies quickly through the air, diving and soaring repeatedly. The first egg is usually laid in March. Incubation begins before a second egg is laid, so the first chick hatches three or four days ahead of the second. The second chick usually starves or is killed by the older chick..

Food & Hunting: The golden eagle preys mainly o small animals, especially the mountains hare. it scavenges the remains of larger animals, such as deer. Other prey include young foxes, mink, lizards, snakes and game birds such as red and game birds such as red grouse and ptarmigan. Most prey is caught on the ground, but the golden eagle will catch some birds in midair. Its sharp eyesight enables it to see small prey from some distance away..

Eagle and Man:  The golden eagle was once widespread throughout the Great Plains. Its numbers have declined due to persecution from hunters and farmers. The eagle's habitat is now threatened as well. Rainforestation is reducing the open areas over which the eagle hunt's. Insecticides (DDT, dieldrin) have already adversely effected the eagle's breeding success. Despite bans on these chemicals, poisoning remains the greatest threat to the eagle today.

Key Facts: Sizes, Weight, breeding, lifestyle, related Species

Length: 30 - 35 inches
Wing Span: 6 to 7 ft
Weight:  6 to 13 lbs

Sexual maturity: 4 to 5  years
Breeding Season: March - July
No. Of broods: 1
Gestation: 43 to 45  days
Fledgling: 65 to 70 days
Eggs: 2, white with brown blotches.

Habit: Solitary or paired, hunts for prey on the ground while soaring on thermals (hot air currents).
Diet:  Small mammals and birds caught alive or eaten as carrion.
Related Species: The Imperial eagle, Aquila heliaca..

Distribution: Found sparsely across northern Europe, Asia, North America and North Africa
Conservation: A protected species in the U. S. since 1952, this eagle is still threatened by direct persecution and habitat loss. It is hunted in some parts of the world.

Did you know:
Golden Eagles are thought to live for 15-20 years in the wild.  Captive birds have been know to live for 40 - 45 years.
In forested areas of North America, the golden eagles home range may cover as much as 200 square miles.
Golden eagles swoop down on their prey at speeds of up to 95 miles per hour.
In old England, only Kings were allowed to hunt golden eagles.

Features of the golden eagle:
The golden eagle spends much time soaring.  Its wings are long and have well spread primary feathers, which allow it to adjust its movements in air currents.
The golden eagle also has a particularly large and powerful hooded beak. It is used to dismember prey which it carries back to it nest in pieces.
Its legs and feet are large and thick with long sharp talons which enable it to grasp and crush its prey.

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