|Population||300,000+ est. (2015)|
|Conservation status||Least concern|
Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) is a large bird of prey found over much of the Northern Hemisphere. The most widespread of all known species of eagle, they are found from approximately 70o north in the Arctic to 22o south.
Adults are dark brown overall, with small, faint patches of white on the wing undersides; the tail is likewise brown, with a single band of white. Juvenile birds bear better defined white patches at the base of their primary wing feathers, and conspicuous white tails with a dark brown band at the tip. The common and Latin names refer to the gold wash over the small feathers on the nape of the neck.
Golden eagles are open-country birds, hunting over large areas generally lack tree cover, from sea level to up to 12,000 feet in mountainous areas; they have been seen up to 18,000 feet in the Himalayas.
Golden Eagles primarily prey upon small mammals such as rodents, hares, birds, and sometimes insects. They will feed on carrion when the opportunity arises. Their method of hunting is usually from sitting upon a high perch, such as a cliff face or a power pole; their eyesight is among the best in the animal kingdom, and they can identify an animal as small as a rabbit from a distance of a quarter-mile away. When prey is seen, they take to the air and seize it after making a stooping dive. Golden eagles are capable of killing animals as large as deer, and in Central Asia nomadic herdsman have trained them to kill wolves.
Golden eagles are monogamous, and mate for life. Nests are large, and placed in high positions in the ledges of cliffs, crooks of large trees, or in man-made platforms constructed for that purpose atop power structures. The nest is made of interwoven branches and brush, lined with finer material inside, and become larger over the years each time of re-use. One to four eggs are laid, cream-colored and flecked in brown. Both parents take take turns rearing and feeding the chicks, but the male is the primary hunter, and will also feed the female when she is nesting. The incubation lasts 45 days, and the chicks fledge 66–75 days after hatching.
Man is the only threat to golden eagles, which in the United States were placed on protection in 1962 when some 20,000 birds were killed by ranchers. Today, the eagles are still killed occasionally by poisoning or gunshot in North America and Europe. The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (16 USC §§ 668–668d) places fines and imprisonment for acts related to taking, killing, or disturbing the birds in any way without prior authorization. Despite this, wind farms - such as at Altamont Pass, California - have become exempt from these regulations; wind farms have been championed by liberals for years as a source of clean energy, with the trade-off being the deaths of any birds colliding with the turbine blades. The Altamont Pass kills an estimated 116 golden eagles annually.