Species Spotlight: Golden Eagle

Get to know some of the species at risk in the Lac Deschênes IBA with the Species Spotlight, aka “Sp-Spot”. Today meet the: Golden Eagle

golden eagle

Golden Eagle
Photography by BlueRidgeKitties on Flicker

Scientific Name: Aquila chrysaetos
SARA status: Least Concern Ontario: Endangered
Taxonomic Group: Birds
Size: 84-97 cm wingspan

As one of the largest birds in North America, Golden Eagles are extremely powerful and agile. They can reach up to speeds of over 240km/h when they dive for their prey. Golden Eagles use their speed and sharp talons to hunt animals such as rabbits, marmots, squirrels or even smaller birds. A mature Golden Eagle is dark brown with a golden sheen on the back of the head and neck. Young ones will have white patches at the base of the tail and in the wings.

Open country, especially around mountains, hills and cliffs is the preferred habitat of the Golden Eagle. They also live in a variety of habitats such as grasslands, forests, arctic, tundra and desert. There large birds enjoy nesting in high places and they make large nests, in which they may return to for several breeding years. Golden Eagles are most common in western North America but can also be found in Asia and Europe.

Golden Eagles are very sensitive to disturbances near their nests. They have suffered many years from human persecution such as illegal shooting and trapping. These problems have been reduced in the recent decades but other human activities are a constant threat such as collisions with wind turbines or chemicals and toxins introduced into their food chain. Currently, the Golden Eagle and its habitat are protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act.

Where Else Can You See This Species?
Golden Eagles can be found all over North America but they are most common in the western area and even in Alaska. There are several reports in southern Ontario, including around 15 in the Ottawa area, mainly along the Lac Deschênes – Ottawa River Important Bird Area. You might also get a chance to spot the Golden Eagle in Gatineau Park.

Did You Know?
• The Golden Eagle is the national bird of Mexico. It is also the national animal of Albania, Egypt, Germany and Italy
• Golden Eagles have been known to attack a full grown deer.
• When a large bird like the Golden Eagle accidently touches two lines on a power-pole at the same time, it gets electrocuted. Biologists, engineers and government officials are cooperating in developing new designs to prevent this occurrence.

Check back every week to read about a different species at risk that can be found in Lac Deschênes.
You can report sightings of this and other rare species to the Canadian Wildlife Service at (819) 997-2800 or on the MNR Natural Heritage Information Centre website. A photo and a location are very helpful!

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We would like to thank our guest blogger Kelsey Ha for this post. Kelsey is a high school student volunteer at Nature Canada and is interested in biology and environmental sciences.