Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Golden Eagle - Apex Predator

The golden eagle is the largest bird of prey in North America, and with a range that includes most of the northern hemisphere, the most widespread eagle on earth.
Photo: Jason Hickey
With a wingspan of over seven feet and weighing up to 15lbs, an adult golden eagle will not be mistaken for a smaller hawk or falcon. Golden eagles live in areas of open country such as desert and sparse forests. They usually build a nest of sticks on a cliff ledge or occasionally in a tree. This nest will be the home for a mated pair of golden eagles for life and they will enlarge and repair the nest as necessary.

The vast majority of the golden eagle’s diet consists of small to medium-sized mammals such as hares, marmots and young deer. Other major food sources include birds such as pheasants, grouse, falcons and hawks, as well as any available carrion.
Due to their massive size, healthy adult golden eagles have no natural predators of their own. They have been known to get mobbed by groups of smaller hawks and falcons when they invade a nesting area though. A healthy golden eagle can live for 30 years in the wild.
By far the greatest threat to golden eagles comes from habitat loss. Once thriving golden eagle populations in Europe are now severely restricted, and though still common in much of North America and Asia, populations continue to decline in areas with an increasing human presence.

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