Golden Eagle

© RicardMN Photography

© RicardMN Photography

The golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) is one of the best-known birds of prey in the Northern Hemisphere. It is the most widely distributed species of eagle. Like all eagles, it belongs to the family Accipitridae. These birds are dark brown, with lighter golden-brown plumage on their napes. Immature eagles of this species typically have white on the tail and often have white markings on the wings. Golden eagles use their agility and speed combined with powerful feet and massive, sharp talons to snatch up a variety of prey (mainly hares, rabbits, marmots and other ground squirrels).

Golden eagles are fairly adaptable in habitat but often reside in areas with a few shared ecological characteristics. They are best suited to hunting in open or semi-open areas and search them out year-around. Native vegetation seems to be attractive to them and they typically avoid developed areas of any type from urban to agricultural as well as heavily forested regions. In desolate areas (i.e. the southern Yukon), they can occur regularly at roadkills and garbage dumps. The largest numbers of golden eagles are found in mountainous regions today, with many eagles doing a majority of their hunting and nesting on rock formations. However, they are not solely tied to high elevations and can breed in lowlands if the local habitats are suitable.

The golden eagle is one of the most powerful predators in the avian world. At least seven main hunting techniques are known to be utilized by the species, with many individual variations and the ability in most mature eagles to quickly (and sometimes cleverly) vary back and forth between methods depending on the circumstance. The first described is “high soar with glide attack”, where the golden eagle soars at least 50 m (160 ft) above the earth. Once it spies a prey item, the eagle partially closes its wings and enters a long, low-angled glide which can carry it over distances of 1 km (0.62 mi) with the speed increasing as the wings close more. Just prior to impact, the wings are opened, the tail fanned and feet thrust forward to grab the prey, creating a booming sound, causing by the wings whipping against the wind, in the instant before the strike that sounds like a clap of thunder. (Wikipedia)

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