The Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) is North America’s largest bird of prey. The wing span is between six and seven feet and the body length can be three feet long. The mature eagle is dark brown all over, but the immature eagles have white wing patches and the inner part of the tail is white with a dark brown band across the tip. The Crow Indians were among those that used these tail feathers in making their war bonnets.
The Ultimate Winged Hunter
With diving speeds of 150 miles per hour and their large sharp talons, the eagle prey on rabbits, marmots, squirrels, birds, lizards and small rodents as well as eating available carrion they come across. Their sharp beak is well adapted for tearing meat.
Golden eagles are monogamous and may remain with the same mate for many years or in some cases even for life. Their territory can be up to 60 square miles. They will nest in trees, on cliff ledges or even on the top of telephone poles. Often they will use the same nesting site year after year by just adding more sticks on top. Sometimes before they fledge, the eaglets will stain the cliffs below the nests white.
Sightings at Bighorn Canyon
Golden eagles can be found regularly in the Bighorn Canyon and the neighboring Bighorn Basin throughout the year. Look for them alone or in pairs soaring above the canyon searching for prey. When you spot a small dark rock standing up on the skyline, take a closer look. It might be an eagle. They have been in this area for a long time and are represented in local petroglyphs as the thunderbirds.
Did You Know
- Golden Eagles have a very large range, they live in North America, Eurasia, and Northern Africa.
- Golden Eagles get their name from their golden nape on the back of their neck.
- Golden Eagles have long lifespans. In captivity a Golden Eagle lived to 46 years old. In the wild they have been known to live to 32 years.