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Animal Detail ViewՄանրամասն` նրանց մասին

27.02.2012

Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)


Scientific classification:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Falconiformes
Family: Accipitridae
Subfamily: Accipitrinae
Genus: Aquila
Species: Aquila chrysaetos

Description

The Golden Eagle is a well-known raptor of the northern hemisphere and the largest bird of prey in North America. The bird has a dark brown plumage with golden colored feathers on the crown and on the neck, gray ones on the wings and sometimes white ones on the tail. Genders are similar in coloration but differ in size: Females normally achieve a higher weight and a larger size. Whereas males weigh up to 4,5 kilogram, female birds expose a weight up to 6 kilogram. The length of Golden Eagles ranges from 70 centimeters to 84 centimeters, the wingspan from 185 to 220 centimeters. The species has gray-black claws and bills that are hooked in the end. The eyes are dark brown while cere and feet are yellow. The legs are feathered all the way down to the toes.

Young Golden Eagles look similar to adults but have light spots on the tip of their wings and a white band on the tail as well as a black one. When the juveniles are 4 to 6 years their plumage changes to the adult coloration.

The species is divided into 5 or 6 subspecies which differ in geographical distribution, size and coloration.

The average lifespan of a Golden Eagle in wild is reported to be 29 years. In captivity some birds even achieved an age of 46 years.

Range and habitat

The Golden Eagle is endemic to the Northern hemisphere and can be observed in the mountains and woods of Eurasia, North America and North Africa. Once widespread, today the species is very decimated because of habitat destruction through human activities. The birds live in semi-open landscapes as tundra, wood and brush lands and even in coniferous forests though they prefer mountainous areas up to an altitude of 3600 meters. The territory size ranges between 20 to 33 square kilometers depending on season and quality of the area.

Behavior

Golden eagles are normally solitary or build a strong pair bond with one partner. Only young birds can sometimes be found in groups. Only in cases of extreme food shortage adult birds will get together in a group. Some northern populations migrate in winter to southern regions whereas other birds are sedentary, for example most pairs in continental USA and southern Canada.

Golden eagles do not use a lot of vocalization to communicate, except during the breeding season in which they use nine different calls, most of them associated with food delivery to nestlings. Usually they are very quiet and they mark the boundaries of their territory not by calling, but by indicating their claim of the area by high flights above their home range.

Instead of their voice, their eyesight is the most important sense. The big eyes provide an outstanding sight which enables Golden eagles to discover their prey from very far. Connected with the ability to achieve high speed during their flight, they are dangerous and successful hunters.

Only very few animals hunt on Golden eagles but there are records that wolverines and grizzly bears go for Golden eagle nestlings.

Diet

Golden eagles are very strong and deft birds. They hunt often in low flight and try to catch their prey from short distances. Predominately they hunt smaller prey such as rabbits or squirrels, but they attack also animals which are larger than themselves, for instance young ibexes or chamois. The prey is mostly caught and killed with their powerful claws and carried away. Because of the fact that eagles cannot carry prey, that is heavier than themselves, they dissipate the cadaver and depose it in smaller portions. In smaller numbers also fishes, reptiles and other birds are eaten.

Eagle pairs also hunt together. While one chases the prey to exhaustion, the partner waits for the right moment to rush down and kill the prey.

Reproduction

Golden eagle pairs will stay together for life. Only migratory individuals may mate new when they return to their breeding places. Over the years the pairs will build several nests out of heavy branches, grass and leaves in their territory, which are getting bigger each year because the birds add more and more material. The nests are situated on trees and cliffs or sometimes on man-made structures as towers. Usually, once a year the female lays two eggs a few days apart. Depending on the geographical region this happens between March and August. Incubation is predominately the duty of the female though the male undertakes some of the incubation. After approximately 42 days the so called eaglets hatch in the order the eggs were laid. The older eaglet will probably attack and maybe even kill its younger sibling. 50 days the parents feed the chicks, before the youngsters will leave the nest for their first flight and start to eat on their own. However, in most cases only the older offspring survives until fledging. After 32 to 80 days the young eagles are independent. Young birds begin to breed in an age of 4 to 7 years after they attained adult plumage.

Conservation status

The population of Golden eagles was severely damaged in North America by hunting, mostly from aircraft, because humans believed that the birds kill livestock as young sheep and goats. Studies show that such allegations are not justified especially because 70 % of the diet consists out of rabbits. This food habit even supports farmers, as it controls the population size of rabbits which may destroy the plantations for forage crops. In 1962 the Bald Protection Act stopped the large scale killings of the species in the USA. However, further threats limited the population size of Golden eagles such as power lines, traps for other animals, poisoning and elimination of prey.

Nevertheless, the species is qualified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, because the population size seems to be stable and the range is still quite big.

The Golden eagle in human culture

The Golden eagle is the most common national animal in the world. Five nations have chosen this animal as a national symbol: Albania, Austria, Germany, Mexico and Kazakhstan. It was used as a symbol of the Roman legions and the Roman civilization which had a big influence on the Western Culture. In Arab poetry the bird symbolizes power and according to the legend it was the personal symbol of Sultan Saladin, the conqueror of Jerusalem.

All in all eagles are often sacred birds, especially among some Native American tribes. Feathers are often worn on headdresses and used in various ceremonies.

Short Facts

  • The Golden eagles dive speed can reach 193 kilometer per hour when they chase a prey.

  • The birds are sometimes trained for falconry. Hunters in Kazakhstan use Golden eagles to catch deer.

  • The talons of Golden eagles are said to be more powerful than the hand and arm strength of a person.

  • It is used as an official national animal by 5 countries: Albania, Austria, Germany, Kazakhstan and Mexico.



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