My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Golden Eagle, Aquila chrysaetos

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Golden Eagle, Aquila chrysaetos

The Golden Eagle is one of the best-known birds of prey in the Northern Hemisphere. It is the most widely distributed species of eagle. Like all eagles, it belongs to the family Accipitridae. These birds are dark brown, with lighter golden-brown plumage on their napes. Immature eagles of this species typically have white on the tail and often have white markings on the wings. Golden Eagles use their agility and speed combined with extremely powerful feet and massive, sharp talons to snatch up a variety of prey (mainly hares, rabbits, marmots and other ground squirrels).

Golden Eagles maintain home ranges or territories that may be as large as 200 km2 (77 sq mi). They build large nests in high places (mainly cliffs) to which they may return for several breeding years. Most breeding activities take place in the spring; they are monogamous and may remain together for several years or possibly for life. Females lay up to four eggs, and then incubate them for six weeks. Typically, one or two young survive to fledge in about three months. These juvenile Golden Eagles usually attain full independence in the fall, after which they wander widely until establishing a territory for themselves in four to five years.

Once widespread across the Holarctic, it has disappeared from many areas which are now more heavily populated by humans. Despite being extirpated from or uncommon in some its former range, the species is still fairly ubiquitous, being present in sizeable stretches of Eurasia, North America, and parts of North Africa. It is the largest and least populous of the five species of true accipitrid to occur as a breeding species in both the Palearctic and the Near arctic.

For centuries, this species has been one of the most highly regarded birds used in falconry, with the Eurasian subspecies having been used to hunt and kill prey such as Gray Wolves in some native communities. Due to its hunting prowess, the Golden Eagle is regarded with great mystic reverence in some ancient, tribal cultures. The Golden Eagle is one of the most extensively studied species of raptor in the world in some parts of its range, such as the Western United States and the Western Palearctic.

There is far too much information available about golden eagles than I care to insert into this post. If you’re interested in learning more about this magnificent raptor, I would suggest that you read the entire article about them available online on Wikipedia.

On to my photos:

Golden eagle in flight

Golden eagle in flight

Golden eagle in flight

Golden eagle in flight

Golden eagle

Golden eagle

Golden eagle and American crows

Golden eagle and American crows

Golden eagle

Golden eagle

Golden eagle

Golden eagle

Golden eagle

Golden eagle

Golden eagle

Golden eagle

Golden eagle

Golden eagle

Golden eagle in flight

Golden eagle in flight

This is number 135 in my photo life list, only 215 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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12 responses

  1. You got some great shots of him / her! Imagine a bird big enough to kill a wolf!

    December 4, 2013 at 10:31 am

    • Thanks Allen, it’s their great strength as well as their size that lets them take on large mammals. The one that I saw previously was huge, this one was only slightly larger than a bald eagle, maybe a juvenile.

      December 5, 2013 at 2:18 am

  2. Great shots! Love the fuzzy head.

    December 5, 2013 at 4:49 am

    • Thanks, I hope to do better next time.

      December 5, 2013 at 8:32 am

  3. Eagles are amazing–love those big raptors (yup, as long as they’re NIMBY!) PS, did you happen to see the NY Times ran an article by Jim Harrison about the Upper Peninsula in last weekend’s Travel section. I was able to think–I already know about that part of Michigan thanks to QSP!!! 🙂

    December 5, 2013 at 8:01 am

    • Thanks Lori! I’ll try to keep this one around here for a while in hopes of getting better photos and keeping it out of your backyard.

      No, I didn’t see the article, most of them are rather shallow, as the residents know more about an area than a travel writer that does a quick trip.

      December 5, 2013 at 9:08 am

  4. OH WOW !! How truly fortunate you are. These are fantastic!

    December 7, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    • Thanks, some sun would have helped, but at least I wasn’t still using my old Nikon, or the eagle would have been a dark lump and nothing more.

      December 7, 2013 at 10:10 pm

  5. I so enjoy spotting the eagles. It feels special, every time.

    December 8, 2013 at 10:13 am

    • Thanks, it is special to see them, seeing as how they were nearly extinct!

      December 8, 2013 at 3:38 pm

  6. Excellent pictures! Haven’t seen one of these here in central Ohio, though their Bald Eagle cousins seem to gradually be becoming more numerous.

    December 17, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    • Thanks! This was my second golden eagle, I didn’t get any photos the first time. I believe that they migrate here from the north over the winter, but I’m not sure. I do know that there are more sightings of them across Michigan every year.
      The bald eagle comeback around here has been astounding! While I was photographing the golden, I had 8 bald eagles in sight at the same time. You may remember a post I did last spring while I was watching a very loose flock of 30 bald eagles.

      December 18, 2013 at 1:57 am