Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)

Phoenix, a golden eagle, lost a wing when she flew into a power line in South Dakota. She is now one of the stars of our educational programs.

Golden eagles are quite common in the western United States. In Illinois, they are sometimes seen during migration, mostly along the Mississippi River Valley. Many people mistake immature bald eagles for golden eagles. Immature bald eagles have some white streaking on the undersides of the wings.

Golden eagles get their name from the golden colored feathers on the nape of their necks. The gold color is most apparent in bright sunlight.

They are larger, and more powerful than the bald eagle, their formidable strength allows them to take larger mammals, such as jackrabbits (in the west). The young of larger mammals, such as pronghorn antelope, are also sometimes taken.

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 Quick Facts about golden eagles:

Mostly mammals, but will also take wounded ducks and geese.


Rarely seen in Illinois. They are more common in the western United States. Goldens are most often seen near the Mississippi River Valley.

Where do we see them?

Golden eagles do not congregate in groups like bald eagles. They are seen alone or in pairs, sometimes over open country.


About 32 inches tall with a wingspan of about seven feet.