This post was inspired by an article on the weather network, about a golden eagle attacking a sitka deer. The attack was caught on a remote camera, and the pictures are pretty impressive. You can see them here: http://www.theweathernetwork.com/news/articles/caught-on-camera-eagle-attacks-deer/13430/. The eagle is about the same size as the deer, and the fact that a bird would even think of attacking something that is the same size or bigger than them just blows my mind.
So in honour of that eagle’s tenacity, I’ve chosen to blog about golden eagles, a bird that has always been close to my heart (only because in grade three I did a project on them, I don’t even really remember it). Golden eagles live across the northern hemisphere, from North America to Eurasia, only going as south as Northern Mexico and North Africa. They inhabit many different types of land, but are mostly found in mountainous regions.
Golden eagles are one of the world’s most impressive predatory birds. They have a wingspan of two meters, making them the largest predatory bird in North America. Females are much larger than males, weighing on average a kilogram more than males. Adult birds are mostly brown, but have a golden coloured area around the face and neck, which gives the species its common name. I’ve always found hawks and eagles to be some of the most beautiful birds, and the golden eagle is no exception. Here’s a picture to show you (I think I might have to paint this later, it’s so cool):
Like many birds, golden eagles stick with one mate, hanging around with their partner for life. Mates stay together throughout the year in non-migratory populations, and it is unknown if they stick together in migratory populations. I like to think they do, because imagining a mated pair travelling together every year just seems kind of cute.
Building a nest is a very laborious task, and both the male and female help out. Usually the eagles build their nest on cliffs, but will use other structures if they can’t find suitable cliff space. It takes four to six weeks to construct or fix-up a nest (they often reuse nests from year to year), which isn’t surprising if you consider how big the nests can get. The largest nest ever recorded was 6.1 meters tall and 2.59 meters wide. That’s HUGE.
And I really don’t see why they need that much space, as the female usually lays only two eggs (to a maximum of four). The chicks hatch a few days apart, with the older sibling killing the younger one more often than not. So really, over two and a half meters for one chick and its parents? Seems a little excessive but maybe the birds like their space. Within ten weeks of hatching the eaglets start to fly, and they leave their parents about eighty days after fledging. It takes a long time for them to fully grow up, however, as they can only breed after four years of age. That may seem like a long time for an animal, but golden eagles live to over thirty years in the wild, so they’ve still got lots of wonderful years of sexual activity left.
Golden eagles eat mostly small mammals, though they sometimes attack and capture much bigger animals (such as the sitka deer in the weather network article). There are reports of golden eagles capturing seals, ungulates, coyotes and badgers. In Kazakhstan, where golden eagles are used in falconry, they are trained to attack and try and kill wolves (though many times these attacks are unsuccessful).
I think this post has given me a new item to add to my bucket list: try falconry, and try it with a golden eagle. They are without a doubt one of the most magnificent birds on the planet, so hopefully one day I actually get to meet one!