The golden eagle is a bird that represents the genus of eagles. It is considered one of the largest representatives of this genus. It is distinguished from other birds not only by its impressive size, but also by its specific color, which is characteristic only of golden eagles. This majestic, powerful bird easily adapts to any conditions and can exist in almost any area.
However, it is almost impossible to see her in her natural habitat, as she has intelligence and cunning and avoids meeting people in every possible way. With the passage of time, golden eagles become less and less. This is a threatened bird species.
Species origin and description
Golden eagles belong to the hawk-like birds, they represent the hawk family, the genus of eagles, the species of golden eagles. Scientists zoologists still cannot come to a consensus regarding the origin of birds. There are several theories of their evolution. The most popular is the origin of dinosaurs. Scientists claim that the most ancient ancestors of birds of prey appeared during the Jurassic period (between 200 and 140 million years ago).
Researchers have long assumed that feathered dinosaurs – troodontids and dromaeosaurids – were the ancient ancestors of feathered predators. The ability to fly came to feathered dinosaurs with the development of trees. Thanks to long claws and very powerful hind limbs, feathered dinosaurs learned to climb tall trees.
However, such a theory was called into question in 1991, when archaeologists discovered the remains of ancient birds in Texas, which were called Protoavis. Presumably, they lived on Earth 230-210 million years ago, that is, almost 100 years earlier than Archeopteryx. It was the protoavis that had the most common features with modern predators. Some scientists have put forward the hypothesis that all the followers of the Proto-Avis are, if not relatives, then simply brothers. However, this theory does not have a stable evidence base and is not supported by all scientists and researchers.
Appearance and Features
The golden eagle is one of the largest birds of prey in the world. The length of her body reaches from 75 to 100 cm. Birds have a huge wingspan – from 170 to 250 cm. This species of birds has pronounced sexual dimorphism – females have an advantage in weight and body size. The mass of one adult female is from 3.7 to 6.8 kilograms. A male individual weighs from 2.7 to 4.8 kilograms. The head is small. It has large eyes and a beak that resembles an eagle in appearance. It is tall, flat on both sides, and falls down in the shape of a hook.
Interesting! Golden eagles have excellent eyesight. They have a rather complex structure of the eye. The predator is able to recognize a running hare from a height of 2000 meters. At the same time, the variety of cones and lenses allows you to constantly keep the object in the field of view. The uniqueness of the vision of feathered predators lies in the fact that they are able to distinguish colors. This trait is very rare in the animal kingdom.
Above the golden eagle's eyes are superciliary ridges that protect the bird's eyes from bright light and give a more menacing look. Members of the hawk family have a short neck with elongated feathers.
Interesting! The neck of a feathered predator is capable of rotating 270 degrees, similar to that of an owl.
Birds have very long and wide wings, which are somewhat narrower towards the base of the body. The wing extended during flight has an s-shape. Such a bend is pronounced in young individuals. The tail of predators is long, rounded. It acts as a rudder during flight. Birds have powerful limbs and very long, sharp claws.
Adults have darker plumage. Birds are dark brown, brown, almost black. The inner part of the wing, chest, nape and neck are distinguished by a lighter, golden-copper plumage. Chicks hatched from eggs are covered with white fluff. Young birds have a darker plumage color compared to older ones. A distinctive feature is white spots on the wings, as well as light marks on the tail.
Where does the golden eagle live?
The bird lives in almost any terrain. It can live in mountainous areas, plains, woodlands, fields, steppes, etc.
Geographical regions of the bird's habitat:
- west coast of North America;
- central region of Mexico;
- somewhat less common in Canada;
Although golden eagles can exist everywhere, they prefer mountainous terrain and vast plains. Feathered predators tend to settle in those regions that are inaccessible to humans. Golden eagles often settle in the steppes, forest-steppes, tundra, abandoned natural canyons, in any forests, dense thickets.
Birds like to settle near water bodies – rivers, lakes, as well as on mountain peaks at an altitude of up to 2500-3000 meters. For hunting, birds choose a flat, open area. In such a territory, it is easier for them to pursue their prey, and for the span of huge wings, unlimited spaces are required. Birds choose tall trees and mountain peaks for rest.
On the territory of Russia, raptors live almost everywhere, but it is extremely rare for a person to meet them. People cause fear in birds, so they tend to stay as far away from them as possible. In our latitudes, it settles in impenetrable swampy areas on the territory of the Russian North, the Baltic States, Belarus.
Golden eagles, like no other birds, love wild, uninhabited and secluded places. That is why they live in places where a person practically does not exist. They can live in Transbaikalia or Yakutia, provided that the nests are located at a distance of 10-13 kilometers from each other. On the territory of the African continent, representatives of the hawk family can be found from Morocco to Tunisia, as well as near the Red Sea. In their habitat, there must be very tall trees where birds can build their nests.
What does the golden eagle eat?
The golden eagle is a predator. The main source of nutrition is meat food. Each adult needs a daily intake of one and a half to two kilograms of meat. Often, in order to get food for itself, a bird hunts animals that are significantly larger than it. In winter, or in the absence of a food source, it can eat carrion, eggs of other birds, reptiles. It can attack sick, weakened individuals, as well as chicks and cubs. These predators tend to eat the chicks of other golden eagles (cannibalism). In the absence of food, they can starve for up to 3-5 weeks.
The prey of the golden eagle can be:
- Vole mice;
- Ducks, geese, partridges, herons, cranes, pheasants, owls;
- Roe deer;
- Sheep, calves.
Golden eagles are considered skilled hunters. They are endowed by nature with powerful limbs and sharp, long claws, as well as a strong beak. This allows them to inflict fatal blows on their prey. Feathered predators do not have a single strategy and tactics of hunting. Sharp vision allows you to recognize prey from a great height and constantly keep it in sight. They can fall like a stone when attacking an object of hunting, or hover in the air, pretending that they are not interested in hunting at the moment.
In fact, they are waiting for the right moment to attack. In most cases, golden eagles don't like long, long chases. They attack their prey with lightning speed. Birds try to inflict immediately a powerful, deadly blow. If they hunt small prey, they strike with their beak. When hunting for larger prey, the predator plunges huge claws into it, piercing the skin and internal organs.
The predator grabs rodents and small mammals with its paws by the head and back and turns their necks. Golden eagles are very skilled and strong hunters. Having become a victim of an attack by such a skilled hunter, the victim has no chance of salvation. Golden eagles tend to take prey from more skilled hunters. If it is necessary to attack prey of especially large sizes, they can call on the help of their brothers for collective hunting.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
The golden eagle prefers to avoid areas that are located near human settlements. Although in ancient times people tamed these huge predators. Golden eagles tend to form pairs and build nests. It takes a tall tree to make a nest. Most often it is pine or aspen. Birds are considered monogamous. They choose a mate for themselves and most often exist in this pair throughout their lives.
They tend to create several nests, from one to five, and live in them alternately. The distance between nests is 13-20 kilometers. In the habitat of one pair, other young individuals that have not yet formed a pair can safely live. Feathered predators calmly perceive such a neighborhood. For hunting choose a specific area. In winter, when the amount of food is sharply reduced, golden eagles increase their hunting territory.
Birds are very afraid of human interference in their natural habitat. If a person has discovered their nest, which contains eggs, golden eagles most often abandon it. Birds have incredible tenacity and strength. They will continue to follow the prey until it becomes their prey. Predators are endowed with great power. One adult bird can lift a load weighing up to 25 kilograms into the air. The strength of the lower limbs makes it possible to turn the neck of large individuals of an adult wolf. The birds are characterized by endurance, the ability to hunt in pairs, as well as a fighting temperament.
Despite their size, feathered predators tend to fly very gracefully, easily soar in the air and radically, quickly change their flight path. The bird is selected for hunting only during daylight hours, when the air reaches a certain temperature and it is comfortable for it to soar in the air. Birds tend to develop a certain route along which golden eagles fly around their possessions in search of food. They also tend to choose guard trees, which offer an excellent overview of a large area. The areas where the birds hunt are of various sizes. Their size ranges from 140 to 230 square meters. km. It is uncharacteristic for golden eagles to make a voice, only occasionally you can hear any sounds from them.
Social structure and reproduction
Golden eagles are monogamous by nature. Loyalty and devotion to the chosen couple is maintained throughout life. The choice of the second half occurs at the age of three years. The mating season begins at the end of February and lasts almost until the end of April. The mating games of birds look very impressive. Both male and female individuals tend to demonstrate their beauty, strength and power. This is manifested in spectacular flights. The birds are gaining more height. Then they dive sharply down and spread their huge wings in front of the very surface of the earth. They also tend to show their hunting abilities. They extend their claws, feign stalking and capturing prey.
After the birds have chosen a mate, they begin to make nests and lay eggs. They are very careful when choosing a place to build a nest. Usually this is a secluded place in the crown of trees at high altitude. The height of one nest reaches 1.5-2 meters, and the width is 2.5-3 meters. It is built from branches and twigs, the bottom is lined with soft foliage and moss. Each nest contains one to three eggs. They are greyish white with black spots. Hatching eggs is required for one and a half months. Sometimes the male replaces the female, but this is rare.
The chicks hatch from the eggs one by one. Older chicks are always larger and stronger, and will repel younger and weaker ones from the food that the male obtains. At the same time, parents do not try to restore justice. As a result, the weaker chick dies of starvation. The chicks spend almost three months in the nest. After that, the mother teaches them to fly. Communication with chicks is one of the few reasons for birds to give voice. The chicks that have mastered the skills of flying remain in the nest until next spring. Life expectancy in natural conditions is about 20 years. In captivity, this figure can double.
Natural enemies of golden eagles
The golden eagle is considered a predator of the highest rank. This means that in their natural environment they have no enemies. Its size, strength and power do not allow any other species of predatory birds to compete with birds.
Man is considered the main enemy of golden eagles. He kills or exterminates birds, and is also able to develop more and more new territories and forests, marshlands. This leads to the fact that the natural habitat of predators is destroyed, the amount of food decreases.
If a person discovers the habitats of birds, they abandon their nests, dooming the chicks to certain death. This is considered the main reason for the decline in the number of birds.
Population and species status
Today, the golden eagle is considered a rare bird, but there is no threat of complete extinction. In recent years, zoologists have noted a tendency to increase their numbers. The cause of their extermination was a man. In the 19th century, they were shot back en masse because of the attack on livestock and other living creatures of farms. Thus, the birds were completely exterminated in Germany.
In the 20th century, mass extermination of birds was caused by pesticides, which, as a result of accumulation, led to the death of adults and premature mutation and cessation of development of unhatched embryos. Also, as a result of the action of harmful substances, the food supply of birds in vast areas was rapidly declining.
Protection of golden eagles
In order to preserve and increase the number of birds, this species is listed in the Red Book. It has been given the status of a species with a minimal risk of extinction. On the territory of many countries, including Russia, the destruction of birds is prohibited at the legislative level. Violation of this law entails administrative and criminal liability. Habitats and settlements of birds are taken under the protection of nature reserves and national parks. Only on the territory of the Russian Federation, birds live in more than two dozen national parks.
Birds quickly adapt to living in captivity, but breed extremely rarely. In the United States, there is a law that prohibits the capture and trade of rare birds, as well as their eggs. Golden eagles are amazing, incredibly powerful and graceful animals. Strength, grandeur, lifestyle and habits arouse great interest and delight. A person must certainly make every effort to preserve and increase the number of this species of birds.