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  • Ranchers once killed many of these birds for fear that they would prey on their livestock, but studies showed that the animal's impact was minimal. Today, golden eagles are protected by law.

  • Some golden eagles migrate, but others do not—depending on the conditions of their geographic location. Alaskan and Canadian eagles typically fly south in the fall, for example, while birds that live in the western continental U.S. tend to remain in their ranges year-round.

  • Golden eagles nest in high places including cliffs, trees, or human structures such as telephone poles. They build huge nests to which they may return for several breeding years.

Impressive as fliers, hunters, nest builders, and parents, golden eagles are also North America’s largest predatory bird, with wingspans ranging from 73-86.5 inches. Females are larger than males, weighing 8.5-13.5 pounds, and males weigh 6.5-10.0 pounds. Like bald eagles, hawks, and kites, golden eagles are members of the Accipitridae Family. They reside throughout Eurasia, North Africa, and the western half of North America, from Alaska southward to central Mexico, and, of the five or six golden eagle subspecies, only the Aquila chrysaetos canadensis is found in North America.

Golden eagles prefer open habitat, such as that found in the expansive vistas of the 360-acre Larson Wildlife Sanctuary in Cortez, Colorado. They span a wide range of elevations, from sea level to well over 11,000 feet, and are found in tundra, shrublands, grasslands, woodlands, brushlands, and coniferous forests. Though they prefer nesting in mountainous areas, they sometimes nest in wetlands or estuarine habitat.

Golden eagles use their agility and speed combined with extremely powerful talons to snatch up prey including rabbits, marmots, ground squirrels, and large mammals such as fox, wild and domestic cats, mountain goats, ibex, and young deer. They will also eat carrion if prey is scarce.

The plumage color ranges from black-brown to dark brown, with a striking golden-buff crown and nape, which glows in the sunlight - the light reflecting the golden tint, which gives the bird its name. The upper wings also have an irregular lighter area. Immature birds resemble adults, but have a duller more mottled appearance. Also they have a white-banded tail and a white patch at the carpal joint, that gradually disappears with every molt until full adult plumage is reached in the fifth year. Contour feathers may be molted in a short time span.

Threats to their safety and well-being

It has been illegal to harm golden eagles or their nests and eggs since 1962, but trapping, shooting, and poisoning still occur. Over 70% of documented golden eagle deaths are the result of human causes. Collisions are the cause of most recorded deaths, including those with vehicles, wind turbines, and other structures, as well as with power lines, resulting in electrocution. Also, their habitat is sometimes impacted by development, agriculture, and changes in wildfire regimes. Populations near urban areas, in particular, have declined.

How they spend their time

Throughout much of their range, golden eagles do not migrate, and the mated pairs stay together year round. Among those migrating, it is not known whether pairs stay together in their wintering grounds, but they begin courting and forming pairs when they return to their nesting grounds, between February and mid-April. Golden eagle courtship is spirited, involving undulating flights, chases, dives, soaring, circling, and mock attacks. Non-migratory eagles begin these elaborate interactions in December.

Nests are built on cliffs, in trees, on riverbanks, or on structures such as windmills, observation towers, electric towers, or nest platforms. The pair works on the nest together over a four to six week period, gathering sticks and vegetation and lining the nest with yucca, leaves, inner bark, grasses, mosses, and lichens. They tend to refurbish their nests with additional materials year after year, so their nests can become rather large. A record example measured 20 feet high by 8.5 feet wide.

Two eggs are most typical, usually being laid three or four days apart. Mom does most of the incubating, which takes from 35-45 days. The nestlings are brooded for 45 days, and their dad supplies most of their food for the first few weeks. Soon after those first six weeks or so, the young begin hopping, walking, and falling out of the nest. At 10 weeks they fledge (begin to fly), but they do not become independent until sometime between 32 and 80 days later, and they will not be ready to breed until they are four and seven years old.

American Badger

Built low-to-the-ground, American badgers are stocky, muscular animals that measure 20" to 35” in length and weigh 9 to 26 pounds. Skillful hunters, these animals can thrive in a variety of habitats.

 

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