An extremely large (30-40 inches) raptor, the Golden Eagle is much larger than the largest North American hawk and is only marginally smaller than the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). With its dark brown body, dull yellow legs, and yellow bill, the Golden Eagle may be difficult to separate at a distance from an immature Bald Eagle, which has these same field marks and lacks the white head and tail of adults. With a good view, however, it is possible to identify a Golden Eagle by looking for a golden wash to the back of its neck. Male and female Golden Eagles are similar to one another in all seasons, although females are slightly larger. The Golden Eagle may be found across the northern hemisphere. In North America, this species breeds primarily in the mountain west from Alaska to central Mexico. In winter, Golden Eagles breeding in Canada and Alaska move south, while those in the Rocky Mountains move to lower altitudes. Golden Eagles were formerly more numerous in eastern North America, but have retracted their range westward in response to increasing pressure from humans. Small numbers of Golden Eagles breed in eastern Canada and winter locally in the northeastern U.S. and Mid-Atlantic region. In Eurasia, the Golden Eagle inhabits much of northern Eurasia, with isolated populations further south, especially at higher latitudes in southern Europe, Asia Minor, and the Himalayas. In summer, the Golden Eagle breeds in a variety of habitats, including tundra, grasslands, and coniferous forests. Winter habitats are similar to breeding habitats, but may also include wetlands. Golden Eagles primarily hunt small mammals, including rabbits, hares, and squirrels, and marmots, but may scavenge carrion when available. Golden Eagles may be most easily observed soaring on long, broad wings held flat (as opposed to vultures, which soar with their wings in a “v” shape). Individuals may also be observed perching in trees or other prominent locations, and adults may be seen entering nests to feed chicks. Golden Eagles are primarily active during the day.
Rare transient, usually seen over mountain ridges west of this region in March, September, and October. Sexes are similar.