Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Aquila chrysaetos
(golden eagle)

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Datasheet

Aquila chrysaetos (golden eagle)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 31 October 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Documented Species
  • Natural Enemy
  • Host Animal
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Aquila chrysaetos
  • Preferred Common Name
  • golden eagle
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Chordata
  •       Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •         Class: Aves
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Aquila chrysaetos is a highly successful generalist predatory bird. Its distribution is Holarctic and predominantly northern hemisphere, although its populations extend into the tropics in Mexico, the Middle Ea...

  • Principal Source
  • Draft datasheet under review.

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Aquila chrysaetos (golden eagle); adult in flight.
TitleAdult
CaptionAquila chrysaetos (golden eagle); adult in flight.
Copyright©Juan Lacruz-2013/via wikimedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Aquila chrysaetos (golden eagle); adult in flight.
AdultAquila chrysaetos (golden eagle); adult in flight.©Juan Lacruz-2013/via wikimedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Aquila chrysaetos (golden eagle); in flight. Žďárské vrchy, Czec Republic. November, 2009.
TitleAdult
CaptionAquila chrysaetos (golden eagle); in flight. Žďárské vrchy, Czec Republic. November, 2009.
Copyright©Martin Mecnarowski-2009/via wikimedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Aquila chrysaetos (golden eagle); in flight. Žďárské vrchy, Czec Republic. November, 2009.
AdultAquila chrysaetos (golden eagle); in flight. Žďárské vrchy, Czec Republic. November, 2009.©Martin Mecnarowski-2009/via wikimedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Aquila chrysaetos (golden eagle); adult, mantling over prey (red fox). Navasrky, Czech Republic. Februray, 2009.
TitleAdult
CaptionAquila chrysaetos (golden eagle); adult, mantling over prey (red fox). Navasrky, Czech Republic. Februray, 2009.
Copyright©Bohuš Číčel-2009/via wikimedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Aquila chrysaetos (golden eagle); adult, mantling over prey (red fox). Navasrky, Czech Republic. Februray, 2009.
AdultAquila chrysaetos (golden eagle); adult, mantling over prey (red fox). Navasrky, Czech Republic. Februray, 2009.©Bohuš Číčel-2009/via wikimedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Aquila chrysaetos (golden eagle); adult of the North American subspecies. Bird in the care of the Southeastern Raptor Rehabilitation Center at Auburn University, Alabama, USA. September, 2004.
TitleAdult in hand
CaptionAquila chrysaetos (golden eagle); adult of the North American subspecies. Bird in the care of the Southeastern Raptor Rehabilitation Center at Auburn University, Alabama, USA. September, 2004.
Copyright©J. Glover-2004, Atlanta, Georgia/via wikimedia - CC BY-SA 2.0
Aquila chrysaetos (golden eagle); adult of the North American subspecies. Bird in the care of the Southeastern Raptor Rehabilitation Center at Auburn University, Alabama, USA. September, 2004.
Adult in handAquila chrysaetos (golden eagle); adult of the North American subspecies. Bird in the care of the Southeastern Raptor Rehabilitation Center at Auburn University, Alabama, USA. September, 2004.©J. Glover-2004, Atlanta, Georgia/via wikimedia - CC BY-SA 2.0

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Aquila chrysaetos (Linnaeus, 1758)

Preferred Common Name

  • golden eagle

International Common Names

  • Spanish: águila real
  • French: aigle royal
  • Russian: berkut

Local Common Names

  • Austria: steinadler
  • Germany: steinadler
  • Switzerland: steinadler

Summary of Invasiveness

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Aquila chrysaetos is a highly successful generalist predatory bird. Its distribution is Holarctic and predominantly northern hemisphere, although its populations extend into the tropics in Mexico, the Middle East, Africa and possibly Asia. It is not considered invasive anywhere and is threatened by population declines throughout most of its range; in some countries it is legally protected or actively conserved. In the mid-1990s, the range of A. chrysaetos expanded to include the Channel Islands of coastal California; the eagles reached the islands naturally, although this was made possible by DDT-driven extinction of local bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) populations and the availability of non-native local food resources. It resulted in a dramatic reduction of the population of endemic island grey foxes (Urocyon littoralis); the eagles were eventually trapped and removed to allow fox populations to recover. Golden eagles very rarely nest near humans but they have occasionally been recorded in urban settings. There has been at least one unsuccessful introduction (southern Appalachians, USA), and at least one successful reintroduction (Ireland), but there are no instances in which golden eagles have been considered invasive.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Chordata
  •             Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •                 Class: Aves
  •                     Order: Falconiformes
  •                         Family: Accipitridae
  •                             Genus: Aquila
  •                                 Species: Aquila chrysaetos

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The taxonomic status and relationships of golden eagles and other hawks and eagles is of interest and in revision. Mitochondrial DNA places A. chrysaetos relatively close to several other Aquila eagles (A. verreauxii, A. audax, A. gurneyi), and also to some eagles which are sometimes placed in the genus Hieraaetus (especially Bonelli’s eagle, A. fasciata or H. fasciatus) (Lerner and Mindell, 2005). Additional work is needed to establish the taxonomic relationships of A. chrysaetos to its other relatives.

Description

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A. chrysaetos weigh from 3-6 kg and have a wingspan of approximately 2 m, with males smaller than females. Adults are predominantly dark brown with paler feathers around the back of the head (giving the species its name); juveniles are a richer chocolate brown with conspicuous white wing and tail patches (Scottish Natural Heritage, undated).

See Watson (2010) for additional details on this species.

Distribution

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A. chrysaetos has a wide range covering much of North America, Europe, Asia except for the south and southeast, and parts of northern Africa. It is uncommon to scarce across its range (IUCN, 2015); on the other hand occasional vagrants may be found in those parts of this general area that do not have established populations (T. Katzner, US Geological Survey, Boise, Idaho, USA, personal communication, 2016).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

AfghanistanWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
ArmeniaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
AzerbaijanWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
BhutanPresentNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
ChinaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
Georgia (Republic of)WidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
IndiaLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
IranWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
IraqLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
IsraelLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
JapanWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
JordanPresentNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
KazakhstanWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
Korea, DPRPresentNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
Korea, Republic ofPresentNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
KyrgyzstanWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
LebanonPresentNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
MongoliaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
MyanmarPresentNativeBirdLife International, 2015
NepalWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
OmanPresentNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
PakistanWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
Saudi ArabiaPresentNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
SyriaPresentNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
TajikistanWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
TurkeyWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
TurkmenistanWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
United Arab EmiratesPresentNativeBirdLife International, 2015
UzbekistanWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
YemenLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001

Africa

AlgeriaPresentNativeBirdLife International, 2015
ChadLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
EgyptPresentNativeBirdLife International, 2015
EthiopiaLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
LibyaLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
MaliPresentNativeBirdLife International, 2015
MauritaniaLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
MoroccoLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001
TunisiaPresentNativeBirdLife International, 2015
Western SaharaPresentNativeBirdLife International, 2015

North America

CanadaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-AlbertaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-British ColumbiaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-ManitobaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-New BrunswickWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-Newfoundland and LabradorWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-Northwest TerritoriesWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-Nova ScotiaPresentNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-NunavutWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-OntarioWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-Prince Edward IslandPresentNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-QuebecWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-SaskatchewanWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-Yukon TerritoryWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
MexicoLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
USAPresentNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-AlabamaLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-AlaskaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-ArizonaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-ArkansasLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-CaliforniaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-ColoradoWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-ConnecticutLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-FloridaLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-GeorgiaLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-IdahoWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-IllinoisLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-IndianaLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-IowaLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-KansasWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-KentuckyLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-LouisianaLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-MaineWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-MarylandLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-MassachusettsLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-MichiganWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-MinnesotaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-MississippiLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-MissouriLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-MontanaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-NebraskaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-NevadaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-New HampshireLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-New JerseyLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-New MexicoWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-New YorkWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-North CarolinaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-North DakotaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-OhioLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-OklahomaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-OregonWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-PennsylvaniaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-Rhode IslandLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-South CarolinaLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-South DakotaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-TennesseeLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-TexasLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-UtahWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-VermontLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-VirginiaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-WashingtonWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-West VirginiaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-WisconsinWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012
-WyomingWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Kochert et al., 2002; Katzner et al., 2012

Europe

AlbaniaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
AndorraPresentNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
AustriaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
BelarusWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
Bosnia-HercegovinaPresentNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
BulgariaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
CroatiaPresentNative Not invasive BirdLife International, 2015
Czech RepublicPresentNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
Czechoslovakia (former)PresentNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
DenmarkPresent, few occurrencesNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
EstoniaPresentNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
FinlandWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
FranceWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
GermanyPresent, few occurrencesNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
GreecePresentNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
HungaryPresent, few occurrencesNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
IrelandPresent, few occurrencesNative Not invasive Scottish Natural Heritage, 2009Extinct by early 20th century; reintroduced from 2001
ItalyWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
LatviaPresent, few occurrencesNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
LiechtensteinPresent, few occurrencesNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
LithuaniaPresentNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
MacedoniaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
MoldovaPresentNative Not invasive BirdLife International, 2015
MontenegroPresentNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
NorwayWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
PolandPresent, few occurrencesNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
PortugalLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
RomaniaPresentNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
Russian FederationWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
-Central RussiaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
-Eastern SiberiaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
-Northern RussiaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
-Russian Far EastWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
-Southern RussiaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
-Western SiberiaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
SerbiaPresentNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
SlovakiaPresentNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
SloveniaPresentNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
SpainWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
SwedenWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
SwitzerlandWidespreadNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
UKLocalisedNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015; RSPB, 2016
UkraineWidespreadNativeFerguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015
Yugoslavia (former)PresentNative Not invasive Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001; Ashpole et al., 2015

History of Introduction and Spread

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A. chrysaetos have been introduced by humans in two areas. Attempts during the 20th century to establish a breeding population in the southern Appalachians (USA), conducted in the incorrect belief that a native breeding population there had become extinct, appear to have failed – eagles are rarely seen there and most often during winter when they are probably naturally occurring migrants from Canada (Katzner et al., 2012). In Ireland, where a native population became extinct in the early 20th century, reintroductions in the early 21st century have resulted in a small breeding population (Scottish Natural Heritage, 2009).

The species also spread naturally to the Channel Islands of California in the 1990s, aided by the absence of bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) due to human persecution and pesticide poisoning, and the presence of introduced feral pigs (Sus scrofa) and mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) as food sources. Over 35 birds were trapped and removed, because they were causing declines in endemic island mammals, in particular the Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis) (IWS, 2006Sonsthagen et al., 2012; National Park Service, 2016).

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
California California 1990s Self-propelled (pathway cause) Yes No National Park Service (2016); Sonsthagen et al. (2012) Spread naturally to Channel Islands; removed by trapping
Georgia Wyoming 1930-2005 Intentional release (pathway cause) No No Katzner et al. (2012); Wheeler (2014) Supposedly a reintroduction; in fact species was never a breeder in southern Appalachians. Attempts to establish a breeding population largely unsuccessful
Ireland UK 2001 Intentional release (pathway cause) Yes No Scottish Natural Heritage (2009) A reintroduction after species became extinct in early 20th century
North Carolina Wyoming 1930-2005 Intentional release (pathway cause) No No Katzner et al. (2012); Wheeler (2014) Supposedly a reintroduction; in fact species was never a breeder in southern Appalachians. Attempts to establish a breeding population largely unsuccessful
Pennsylvania Wyoming 1930-2005 Intentional release (pathway cause) No No Katzner et al. (2012); Wheeler (2014) Supposedly a reintroduction; in fact species was never a breeder in southern Appalachians. Attempts to establish a breeding population largely unsuccessful
Tennessee Wyoming 1930-2005 Intentional release (pathway cause) No No Katzner et al. (2012); Wheeler (2014) Supposedly a reintroduction; in fact species was never a breeder in southern Appalachians. Attempts to establish a breeding population largely unsuccessful

Risk of Introduction

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Slim to none.

Habitat

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A. chrysaetos is extremely widespread and occupies nearly every habitat in the northern hemisphere, from open tundra and grasslands, to desert, to mid-elevation and alpine mountain systems and even dense forested areas (deciduous and coniferous). It can be found everywhere except where humans have dramatically changed landscapes.

Habitat List

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CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial-managed
Cultivated / agricultural land Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Disturbed areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Rail / roadsides Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Terrestrial-natural/semi-natural
Arid regions Principal habitat Natural
Cold lands / tundra Principal habitat Natural
Deserts Principal habitat Natural
Natural forests Principal habitat Natural
Natural grasslands Principal habitat Natural
Riverbanks Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Rocky areas / lava flows Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Scrub / shrublands Principal habitat Natural
Wetlands Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural

Biology and Ecology

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For further information on the species see Watson (2010) and Kochert et al. (2002).

Genetics

See Doyle et al. (2014) for the genome sequence of A. chrysaetos.

Reproductive Biology

Golden eagles are strongly k-selected - they reproduce slowly, breeding less than annually (perhaps 0-3 times out of every 4 years), they have few offspring (1-3 per successful breeding attempt; mean is between 1 and 2, and mean per year per pair is less than 1), they have an extended pre-adult life stage, and once they reach adulthood they usually live for a long time. Nest success is tightly tied to environmental factors and in areas or years with high prey abundance, reproductive output tends to be higher. The nest is built on cliffs, in trees, or on the ground.

Physiology and Phenology

Golden eagles are highly adaptable, as evidenced by their wide range. They prey on available food and scavenge in winter. Migratory populations leave breeding grounds in September or October and return between February and April.

Longevity

The species is long-lived, with lifespans of more than 30 years having been recorded in the wild.

Activity Patterns

Some populations are complete migrants, others are partial migrants, and in others individuals stay in the same territory year round. Young birds can disperse or explore over long distances. On a daily basis, golden eagles are most active during daylight hours, although there are records of them moving at night.

Population Size and Density

In North America there are probably around 50,000 individual golden eagles. Populations in Eurasia are probably of a similar size, although in general data are lacking (see BirdLife International, 2015).

Nutrition

A. chrysaetos is an extreme dietary generalist, feeding on a variety of small to medium-sized (generally 100-3000 g) birds, mammals, and even reptiles; they often predate sciurids, lagomorphs and grouse-sized birds. They scavenge heavily in winter.

Associations

The species is often found near colonial mammals and birds.

Environmental Requirements

It appears to be very drought tolerant, although its prey are mostly not as tolerant.

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
B - Dry (arid and semi-arid) Tolerated < 860mm precipitation annually
BS - Steppe climate Tolerated > 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation
BW - Desert climate Tolerated < 430mm annual precipitation
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Tolerated Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)
Ds - Continental climate with dry summer Tolerated Continental climate with dry summer (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry summers)
Dw - Continental climate with dry winter Tolerated Continental climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry winters)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
75 5

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Nest predation by carnivores, e.g. lynx and bobcat, is likely to occur, although this is not verified. Other natural enemies of golden eagles are humans. Golden eagles only rarely die from aggressive interactions with other animals.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Golden eagles are exceptionally dispersive and can travel thousands of miles during migration or when young and searching for potential breeding areas. Migration is seasonal; dispersal can be at almost at any time of the year. Dispersal is almost all natural – there are few cases of eagles being transported by humans.

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Intentional releaseActual or putative conservation management Yes Yes Katzner et al., 2012; Scottish Natural Heritage, 2009; Wheeler, 2014
Self-propelled Yes Yes

Impact: Economic

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Golden eagles are capable of killing domestic lambs, but studies cited by Watson (2010), from Scotland, North America and Scandinavia, indicate that in most cases the numbers killed are small; estimates from Scotland are that eagles account for 0.5-8% of total lamb mortality, i.e. the loss of 0.15-2.4% of the total potential lamb crop. Eagles may also consume lambs that have died of other causes (Watson, 2010), which might create a perception that they are a greater threat.

A study of semi-domestic reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) in Finland found that golden eagle predation was a significant cause of calf mortality, especially in open habitats, accounting for at least 40% of mortality, i.e. the deaths of 2.8 or 4.2% (in the two years of the study) of the total number of calves studied (Norberg et al., 2006).

Birds of prey including golden eagles are subject to illegal persecution in parts of Scotland due to a perceived impact on populations of red grouse (Lagopus scoticus or L. lagopus scotica), an important gamebird (Whitfield et al., 2004a,b), although Whitfield et al. suggest that the presence of eagles may in fact suppress populations of smaller raptors which may have a bigger effect on grouse populations.

The only other economic impact of the species is that legal protection concerns may hinder some industrial development.

Impact: Environmental

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After the species spread to the Channel Islands of California in the 1990s it was, as a predator, a major cause of a massive decline in the population of the endemic Island Fox, Urocyon littoralis. The problem was solved by trapping the eagles and relocating them to the mainland (National Park Service, 2016).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Urocyon littoralisNT (IUCN red list: Near threatened) NT (IUCN red list: Near threatened)CaliforniaPredationSonsthagen et al., 2012; National Park Service, 2016
Urocyon littoralis catalinae (Santa Catalina Island fox)USA ESA listing as threatened species USA ESA listing as threatened speciesCaliforniaPredationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2004

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Has a broad native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Long lived
Impact outcomes
  • Threat to/ loss of endangered species
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Predation

Uses

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Eagle feathers are sometimes used in display by Native Americans and in other cultures. Golden eagles appear in zoos or falconry but have no other uses.

Uses List

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General

  • Botanical garden/zoo
  • Ritual uses
  • Sport (hunting, shooting, fishing, racing)

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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In North America, A. chrysaetos may be confused with young bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), which can be distinguished because they do not have fully feathered tarsi, the head and beak are shaped differently, they do not have gold behind the head, and they have a light/dark spotting on their tail (golden eagles have a “marbled look” rather than spots). In flight A. chrysaetos may be confused with turkey vultures (Cathartes aura), which can be distinguished because they fly in a more noticeable dihedral (V-shape) and their head is relatively smaller.

In Eurasia, golden eagles can be confused with several eagle species: with Spanish or eastern imperial eagles (Aquila adalberti or Aquila heliaca) which have distinctly different juvenile plumages and as adults are lighter on the back of the head and often have distinct white shoulder patches, darker underwing coverts and a more heavily barred tail; with greater or lesser spotted eagles (Clanga clanga or Clanga pomarina), which are smaller, have distinctly different juvenile plumages and as adults have no gold on the back of the head and a white comma (or commas) at the base of the primaries; with steppe eagles (Aquila nipalensis), which also have distinct juvenile plumages and as adults are heavily barred underneath with a different wing and tail shape and almost no gold on the back of the head; and with juvenile white-tailed sea eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla), which although broader winged, are also large and all-dark birds.

Prevention and Control

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When the species caused a massive decline in the population of the endemic Island Fox, Urocyon littoralis, on the Channel Islands of California in the 1990s, the problem was solved by trapping the eagles and relocating them to the mainland (National Park Service, 2016). Attempts to use translocation to reduce predation on livestock in the mainland USA met with little success (Watson, 2010).

References

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Ashpole J, Burfield I, Ieronymidou C, Pople R, Wheatley H, Wright L, 2015. European Red List of Birds. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International. http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/info/euroredlist

BirdLife International, 2015. Species factsheet: Aquila chrysaetos. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International. http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=3537

Doyle JM, Katzner TE, Bloom PH, Ji Y, Wijayawardena BK, DeWoody JA, 2014. The genome sequence of a widespread apex predator, the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos). PLoS ONE, 9(4):e95599. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0095599

Ferguson-Lees J, Christie DA, 2001. Raptors of the world. Boston, Massachusetts, USA: Houghton Mifflin & Company, 992 pp

IUCN, 2015. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. http://www.iucnredlist.org/

IWS, 2006. Population status and golden eagle removal efforts on Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Islands 2005-2006. California, USA: Institute for Wildlife Studies.http://www.iws.org/Publications/Golden_Eagle_Removal_SCZ_2006.pdf

Katzner T, Smith BW, Miller TA, Brandes D, Cooper J, Lanzone M, Brauning D, Farmer C, Harding S, Kramar D, Koppie C, Maisonneuve C, Martell M, Mojica EK, Todd C, Tremblay JA, Wheeler M, Brinker DF, Chubbs TE, Gubler R, O'Malley K, Mehus S, Porter B, Brooks RP, Watts BD, Bildstein KL, 2012. Status, biology and conservation priorities for North America's eastern Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) population. The Auk, 129(1):168-176

Kochert MN, Steenhof K, Mcintyre CL, Craig EH, 2002. Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos). The Birds of North America Online [ed. by Poole, A.]. Ithaca, New York, USA: Cornell Lab of Ornithology. http://dx.doi.org/10.2173/bna.684

Lerner HR, Mindell DP, 2005. Phylogeny of eagles, Old World vultures, and other Accipitridae based on nuclear and mitochondrial DNA. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 37:327-346. http://heatherlerner.com/pdfs/Lerner.Mindell.MPE.2005.pdf

National Park Service (USA), 2016. Channel Islands. Washington, DC, USA: National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/chis

Norberg H, Kojola I, Aikio P, Nylund M, 2006. Predation by golden eagle Aquila chrysaetos on semi-domesticated reindeer Rangifer tarandus calves in northeastern Finnish Lapland. Wildlife Biology, 12(4):393-402. http://www.wildlifebiology.com

RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), 2016. Bird Guide. Sandy, UK: Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. https://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/discoverandlearn/birdguide/

Scottish Natural Heritage, 2009. Review of Irish Golden Eagle Reintroduction Project: donation of Scottish birds under licence issued by SNH. Inverness, UK: Scottish Natural Heritage, 55 pp. http://www.snh.org.uk/pdfs/scottish/IrishGoldenEagleProject.pdf

Scottish Natural Heritage, undated. Key facts on the golden eagle. Inverness, UK: Scottish Natural Heritage, 4 pp. http://www.snh.org.uk/pdfs/strategy/GEConsult/8-KEYFACTSLEAFLET-B464148.pdf

Sonsthagen SA, Coonan TJ, Latta BC, Sage GK, Talbot SL, 2012. Genetic diversity of a newly established population of golden eagles on the Channel Islands, California. Biological Conservation, 146:116 - 122

US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2004. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Listing the San Miguel Island Fox, Santa Rosa Island Fox, Santa Cruz Island Fox, and Santa Catalina Island Fox as Endangered. In: Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Listing the San Miguel Island Fox, Santa Rosa Island Fox, Santa Cruz Island Fox, and Santa Catalina Island Fox as Endangered : US Fish and Wildlife Service.19 pp.

Watson J, 2010. The Golden Eagle, 2nd Edition. London, UK: T. and A.D. Poyser, 400 pp

Wheeler MS, 2014. The genetics of conservation translocations: a comparison of North American golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos canadensis) and bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA: Duquesne University

Whitfield DP, Fielding AH, Mcleod DRA, Haworth PF, 2004. Modelling the effects of persecution on the population dynamics of golden eagles in Scotland. Biological Conservation, 119(3):319-333. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2003.11.015

Whitfield DP, Fielding AH, Mcleod DRA, Haworth PF, 2004. The effects of persecution on age of breeding and territory occupation in golden eagles in Scotland. Biological Conservation, 118(2):249-259. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2003.09.003

Principal Source

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Draft datasheet under review.

Contributors

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04/01/16 Original text received

Distribution Maps

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