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Golden Eagle

Aquila chrysaetos

Physical Characteristics

Adult golden eagles are entirely brown except for golden tinged feathers spreading from the top of their head down the back of their neck. Slightly smaller than bald eagles, their body length ranges from 27 to 33 inches, while their wingspan ranges from 73 to 87 inches.

Juvenile (or "subadult") golden eagles are often darker than the lighter brown adults. Young golden eagles also have white patches under their wings and at the base of their tail feathers, visible in flight. These white areas diminish in subsequent years and are eventually absent as they reach adult plumage in year 4 or 5.

Golden eagles can be mistaken for immature bald eagles (or vice versa). Since immature bald eagles do not have their fully white heads and tails, they can be difficult to tell apart from golden eagles until about year 3 when distinct white feathers begin to emerge on their heads and on their tails.

Our golden eagle photo gallery and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology golden eagle profile have several photos illustrating the difference between adult and subadult golden eagles.

Facts About
Golden Eagles

Nesting Season
January 1 - August 31
Local Distribution
Statewide in Washington, Oregon and Idaho
Common Nesting Site
Arid landscapes near cliffs or rock formations
Defining Characteristics
Golden patches on head and neck
golden eagle ©Jonathan Bliss
Last Updated: January 16, 2015
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