Bald Eagles get all the press, but if there is a bird you’d call the most elegant raptor in North America, it’s the Golden Eagle, Aquila chrysaetos.
It’s the largest North American raptor, with a wingspan that can run to 76 inches. A full-grown female – among raptors, females are generally larger – can weigh 14 pounds.
A deadly beak and extremely impressive talons, WC thinks you will agree. And while they are impressive perched like this, a Golden Eagle is really a creature of flight.
The long primaries at the wing tips are striking.
A Golden Eagle against a blue sky is one of the definitions of wilderness for WC.
The species is a victim of humans. Humans account for about two-thirds of the early deaths of this long-lived species. Electrocution, when those long wings inadvertently touch a power line like those in the second photo; collisions with manmade structures, autos and the like; habitat loss and, yes, poaching. Human-altered landscapes, whether deliberate conversion to agriculture or inadvertent introduction of invasive species like cheatgrass, greatly impact jackrabbits and other important prey of Golden Eagles. It’s suspected that Golden Eagle populations are declining.
A Golden Eagle might raise 15 chicks over the course of its life. It’s a significant investment in energy by the parents: it takes six months from egg to fully fledged bird. The slow reproduction rate makes the species vulnerable. No one sensible wants another California Condor.
We live in parlous times. The folks we have tasked with protecting the flora and fauna have betrayed their task. It’s important that each of us refuse to let their behavior continue.