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Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) Fact Sheet: Diet & Feeding

Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)

Diet & Feeding

  • Golden Eagles are the "pre-eminent diurnal predator of medium-sized birds and mammals in open country throughout the northern hemisphere" (Watson 1997)
  • Fond of carrion, but eat medium-sized mammals (del Hoyo et al. 1994)
    • Rodents
    • Rabbits and hares
    • Squirrels
    • Carnivores, such as mustelids, foxes, cats
  • Prey on birds, especially game species, such as grouse and partridge (del Hoyo et al. 1994)
  • In some areas where preferred prey are scarce, Golden Eagles known to capture other raptors and also their prey:
    • Report in Spain of subadult Golden Eagle killing and eating a Bonelli's Eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus) and the prey item of that eagle. (Bosch et al. 2007)
    • Report from Scotland of peregrine, merlin, and kestrel remains in eagle nest (Watson 1997)
  • Less often, reptiles (del Hoyo et al. 1994)
    • Lizards
    • Snakes
    • Tortoises (Ernst & Lovich 2009)
  • In northeastern Lapland prey on reindeer calves (Norberg et al. 2006)
  • In western U.S. and Canada reports of occasional predation on pronghorn and pronghorn calves (Goodwin 1990); also mountain goat kids (Zettergreen 2006)
  • Mason (2006) summarizes a number of larger prey for Golden Eagles:
    • Coyote
    • Domestic calves, domestic sheep and lambs
    • Bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) lambs
    • Mountain goat kids (Oreamnos americanus)
  • A rare report of a golden eagle attacking a bear cub and carrying it away in Norway. (Sorensen et al. 2008)
  • Carrion in winter, especially sheep and deer
  • Pairs may hunt together
    • When hunting together, male typically flies above and in front of female
    • Most attacks on prey initiated by male
  • Golden Eagles occasionally consume other raptors (Bosch et al. 2007)
    • May happen when more typical prey are scarce
    • Alternate explanation: in order to reduce competition for food and nesting sites
  • Channel Island foxes, an endangered species in California, are prey for golden eagles since 1990's (Roemer et al. 2002)

Talons for Catching Larger Prey

Golden eagle with a fox

Golden Eagle hunting a fox in the snow. Navasrky, Czech Republic.

Image credit: Bohuš Číčel via Wikimedia Commons/Flickr. Public domain.

SDZG Library Links

Page Citations

(del Hoyo et al. 1994)
(Mason 2000)
(Olendorff 1976)
(Watson 1997)