Article and photos by Jan Ramelli

   The (Aquila Chrysaetos) is a beautiful raptor that is sometimes confused with an immature Bald Eagle.  You can correctly identify a Golden Eagle by it’s dark brown color with a “light golden-brown plumage” on their napes.  Sometimes in the right light, the feathers will look iridescent giving it the name “golden” eagle. An immature Bald Eagle is also dark brown and is not mature until 5 years when it will proudly display the recognizable white head.  During the maturity process the Bald Eagle will look mottled with lighter colors, and if you can glimpse the underside of the wings they will be a cream or white color with white wing pits which the Golden does not have.

My personal experience has been that the Golden Eagle is more illusive and quicker to fly than the Bald Eagle which makes these sightings and photos so special. These photographs were taken in Northeastern California. If you watch closely, you can find them on telephone poles, in flight, and sometimes on the ground with their prey.


The Golden Eagle is known for its speed, agility, and sharp talons which they combine to snatch up mostly small rodents such as mice, rabbits and marmots.  They prey on some larger animals such as foxes, young deer, lambs, and goats; they will also eat cairn.

Some ancient and tribal cultures hold this raptor in high regard with great mystic reverence.

The Golden Eagle has a lifespan of up to 30 years!  They breed in the spring and are usually monogamous remaining together for several years or life. They will build their nests high in a tree or on a cliff. The female will lay up to 4 eggs and in about 6 weeks they will hatch, typically 1-2 will survive to fledge in 3 months. By fall the young will mature to begin their own lives.  Their territories can be as large as 77 miles!