The Golden eagle is a majestic and powerful bird of prey. Adult individuals are generally similar to each other, though the males are notably smaller than females. The feathering of their body is dark brown, except with golden to blond colored plumage on the back of the head as well as white colored feathers at the base of the tail. Beak and claws are black while feet and cere - a fleshy skin, covering the nostrils of the bird - is yellow in color. Young eagles have a wide line on the tail, which is white colored with a black edge. In addition, there are white under-wing markings at the base of their primary feathers. By their second year, the white under-wing coverts usually decrease.
The species is distributed over a vast territory, covering Eurasia, northern Africa and North America. These birds range from Alaska to central regions of Mexico through most of western North America. In addition, they can occasionally be found in small numbers throughout eastern Canada, and there are scattered pairs, living in the eastern United States. They are most frequently found in mountainous areas. However, these birds can live in a wide variety of habitats, including grasslands, shrublands, woodland-shrublands, coniferous forests and tundra. Meanwhile, wetlands as well as riparian and estuarine areas are suitable nesting places for these birds.
These birds are diurnal, being active by day and sleeping at night. The golden eagles are generally found solitary or in pairs. However, occasionally, non-mated young can gather into groups. Also, during extreme weather conditions or abundance of food, wintering adults tend to congregate in groups. These birds hunt in pairs, cooperating with each other: usually, one of them chases the prey, driving it towards the waiting partner. Golden eagles can be either sedentary or migratory. Thus, in the fall, when food supply starts to decline in northern regions, golden eagles in Alaska and Canada usually migrate to south. Meanwhile, those, living in the continental U.S. and southern parts of Canada, are sedentary, living in the same territory throughout the year.
Golden eagles are carnivores, they mainly feed upon small mammals like prairie dogs, hares, rabbits, ground squirrels or marmots. Meanwhile, fish, birds and reptiles frequently become a good supplement to their usual diet. In addition, these eagles can occasionally prey on flying birds such as cranes or geese.
Golden eagles are monogamous, mating once in a lifetime. They usually stay within a vast territory each year. While rearing the young, Golden eagles frequently move from one eyrie (nest) to another. Throughout their home range, they construct several nests, using them for many years. The eggs are usually laid between January and May, depending on the area, and incubated during 41-45 days. The chicks hatch out with intervals of several days. They are born altricial, brooded by their mother with decreasing frequency during the first 45 days of their lives. Both male and the female take part in feeding the chicks. The hatchlings stay in the nest 45-81 days, after which they start leaving the nest by hopping, walking or just falling out. The young start flying at about 10 weeks old. Then, about 32-80 days after fledging, the chicks become fully independent. They start breeding only after getting the adult plumage, usually by the age of 4-7 years old.
These birds are threatened by environmental destruction, leading to the reduction of their population. Golden eagles are persecuted, electrocuted in power lines as well caught in traps, intended for coyotes or other animals. Major concerns to their population also include poisoning and egg collecting: although the species are legally protected, single cases of both occasionally take place. Another threat is commercial tree-planting, which significantly disrupts their habitat.
Presently, the global population of this species is stable, the birds are not considered threatened and classified as Least Concern (LC). The estimated population of Golden eagle is about 300,000 birds or 200,000 mature individuals. Meanwhile, the population in Europe varies from 9,300 to 12,300 pairs or around 18,500-24,500 mature birds.
These birds play a significant role in the local ecosystem, controlling prey populations. In addition, Golden eagles compete with other animals for prey and habitat. Thus, they prey on the same species as White-tailed eagles, Bald eagles, coyotes and California condors. As it comes to habitat, they compete with Rough-legged hawks, gyrfalcons, Peregrine falcons as well as ravens.