The Golden Eagle is one of the largest eagles in North America and perhaps the world, and has been named the "King of Birds". When falconry was popular in the Middle Ages only kings were allowed to carry a Golden Eagle. The Golden Eagle was also considered for the national symbol for the US, but lost to its cousin, the Bald Eagle, who is specific to North America.
The Golden Eagle is certainly not restricted to North America; it is distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere. In the US it is rarely seen east of the Mississippi River or in the Great Plains; it is more common to the Rocky Mountains, Canada and Alaska, and may also be found in north and central Mexico. It migrates with the food source and may choose to fly southward in winter, but it never flies south of the breeding range described above. They live in a variety of habitats, from mountains to plains, wetlands to rivers, but seem to prefer mountains.
The Golden Eagle measures 3 feet tall with a wingspan of up to 7 1/2 feet. The body is a uniform dark brown, with golden brown highlights on the back of the head, nape and neck. The wings are darker, as with the tail, which is white or gray at the base. The eyes are brown, the beak black, and the lines over the eyes yellow. Their legs are feathered to the toes.
Immatures are darker than the adults, the golden brown highlights are not as noticeable. Their tail is white at the base and has a black terminal bar.
The eagle builds a nest on a cliff or the top of a large tree. The nest may grow to be 5 feet in height and diameter. 2 eggs are usually laid, oval shaped and somewhat coarse in texture. The color is white or off-white, the markings on the egg brown and usually concentrated on one end. The female incubates the eggs for 28 to 35 days. The male delviers food to the female and young, but does not incubate the eggs. The young are born blind, or nearly blind and are very weak. In 9-11 weeks they are exploring out of the nest and fly soon after that.
Golden Eagles have been reported to take down animals such as deer or antelope, as well as mountain goats, dogs, cats, and other larger mammals. Other food includes rodents, songbirds, larger birds, snakes and turtles. In times when live food is scarce, the Golden Eagle may eat carrion.
The Golden Eagle is easier to raise in captivity than a Bald Eagle despite its massive strength. They are also very common. Some population estimates range up to 70,000 in the United States alone. They are still shot as being believed to be a threat to livestock.