Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Golden eagle
Aquila chrysaetos

 

Taxonomy
Occurence in Illinois
Status
Habitat associations
Guilds
Food-habits
Environmental associations
Life history
Management practices
References


TAXONOMY

 

  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Falconiformes
  • Family: Accipitridae
  • Genus: Aquila
  • Species: Aquila chrysaetos

Comments on taxonomy:
Originally described as Falco canadensis by Linnaeus *03*. The species synonyms include F. fulvus and Aquila fulva. Common names include: golden eagle, mountain eagle, ring-tailed eagle, black eagle *02*, royal eagle, gray eagle, brown eagle *08*. The recognized subspecies present in North America is Aquila chrysaetos canadensis *08,12*.

 


OCCURENCE IN ILLINOIS

Rare migrant and winter resident. More numerous, however, along the Mississippi River and the southwestern portion of Illinois *07*. Reported to have nested throughout Illinois prior to 1876 *02*.

 


STATUS

Items in bold indicate applicable categories
Forest Service Categories: S = recommended for regional sensitive status, F = forest listed species, M = management indicator species

Federal Status:

Endangered Threatened Proposed for listing
Candidate for proposal Recovery plan approved Recovery plan received (USFWS)
Recovery plan in preparation Under notice of review Delisted
Migratory EPA indicator Forest Serv.- Shawnee species

State Status:

Endangered Threatened Proposed

Other:

Game Furbearer Nongame protected
Sportfish Commercial Pest None of the above

Comments on status:
No comments.

 


HABITAT ASSOCIATIONS

Items in bold indicate applicable categories

General habitat:

Unknown Terrestrial Aquatic Riparian

USFS timber inventory forest size class:

Unknown Unstocked Seedling Sapling
Seedling/sapling Pole Mature Over mature

Land use and land cover:

Unknown   Urban Residential
Commercial
Industrial
Transportation, communication
Complex industrial/commercial
Mixed
Other
Agricultural Crop, pasture
Orchards, groves, nurseries
Feedlot
Other
Rangeland Herbaceous
Shrub and brush
Mixed
Forestland Deciduous
Evergreen
Mixed
Water Stream
Lake
Reservoir
Bay
Wetland Forest
Non-forest
Barren Salt flat
Beach
Sand
Rock
Mine
Transit
Mix

 


Forest cover types: No records.

Associated tree species:

  • Oak
  • Pine
  • Sycamore
  • Species other than those on IFWIS list

Comments on species-habitat associations:
Golden eagles are associated with mountainous regions, rocky cliffs and tall trees. Need high points in landscape for food surveillance and nesting sites *08,11*. Nests have been found in live oaks and other oaks, sycamores, pines, and redwoods *06,07*.

Important plant and animal association: No comments.

 

High value habitats

HabitatStructural stageSeason
Cliff Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
All
Forest Mature
(9" dia.&100 yrs. old)
All

Species-habitat interrelations: Golden eagles are associated with mountainous regions, rocky cliffs, and tall trees. Need high points in landscape for food surveillance and nesting sites *08,11*.

 


GUILDS

Feed-guilding:

HabitatStructural stageSeasonFeed-guilds
Cliff Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
All Terrestrial surface- small mammals (< 1 kg)
Terrestrial surface- large mammals (> 1 kg)
Terrestrial surface- carrion
Air- birds
Terrestrial surface- birds
Forest Mature
(9" dia.&100 yrs. old)
All Terrestrial surface- small mammals (< 1 kg)
Terrestrial surface- large mammals (> 1 kg)
Terrestrial surface- carrion
Air- birds
Terrestrial surface- birds

Comments on feed-guilding:
Consume wild mammals but very rarely livestock. Capture birds both on the wing and on the ground *07*.

Breed-guilding:

HabitatStructural stageSeasonBreed-Guilds
Cliff Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
Spring/summer Terrestrial surface, cliff on ledge near top
Forest Mature
(9" dia.&100 yrs. old)
Spring/summer Tree canopy, large branches of live broad-leaved deciduous trees
Tree canopy, large branches of live broad-leaved evergreen trees

Comments on breed-guilding:
Nest on a ledge of a crag or in tall trees *08,11*.

 


FOOD-HABITS

Trophic level is CARNIVORE

Food itemLife stage/plant part
Mammals Juvenile
Mammals Adult
Didelphidae (opossum) Unknown
Talpidae (moles) Unknown
Leporidae (rabbits, hares) Unknown
Sciuridae (squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, prairie dogs) Unknown
Geomyidae (pocket gophers) Unknown
Cricetidae (woodrats,mice,voles,lemmings,muskrat) Unknown
Muridae (Norway rat, house mouse) Unknown
Erethizontidae (porcupine) Unknown
Canidae (coyote, wolf, fox) Unknown
Procyonidae (raccoon, ringtail) Unknown
Mustelidae (weasel, skunk, otter) Unknown
Cervidae (elk, deer, moose) Juvenile
Cervidae (elk, deer, moose) Adult
Bovidae (bison, goat, sheep, musk ox) Unknown
Ardeidae (herons, bitterns) Unknown
Anatidae (swans, geese, ducks) Unknown
Accipitridae (kites, hawks, eagles) Unknown
Galliformes Unknown
Phasianidae (pheasants, quail) Unknown
Charadriidae (plovers) Unknown
Columbidae (pigeons, doves) Unknown
Strigidae (owls) Unknown
Alcedinidae (kingfishers) Unknown
Corvidae (jays, magpies, crows) Unknown
Mimidae (mockingbirds, thrashers) Unknown
Icterinae (blackbirds, orioles, meadowlarks) Unknown
Carrion Not applicable
Important:
Mammals Juvenile
Sciuridae (squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, prairie dogs) Unknown
Juvenile:
Mammals Juvenile
Mammals Adult
Didelphidae (opossum) Unknown
Talpidae (moles) Unknown
Leporidae (rabbits, hares) Unknown
Sciuridae (squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, prairie dogs) Unknown
Geomyidae (pocket gophers) Unknown
Cricetidae (woodrats,mice,voles,lemmings,muskrat) Unknown
Muridae (Norway rat, house mouse) Unknown
Erethizontidae (porcupine) Unknown
Canidae (coyote, wolf, fox) Unknown
Procyonidae (raccoon, ringtail) Unknown
Mustelidae (weasel, skunk, otter) Unknown
Cervidae (elk, deer, moose) Juvenile
Cervidae (elk, deer, moose) Adult
Bovidae (bison, goat, sheep, musk ox) Unknown
Ardeidae (herons, bitterns) Unknown
Anatidae (swans, geese, ducks) Unknown
Accipitridae (kites, hawks, eagles) Unknown
Galliformes Unknown
Phasianidae (pheasants, quail) Unknown
Charadriidae (plovers) Unknown
Columbidae (pigeons, doves) Unknown
Strigidae (owls) Unknown
Alcedinidae (kingfishers) Unknown
Corvidae (jays, magpies, crows) Unknown
Mimidae (mockingbirds, thrashers) Unknown
Icterinae (blackbirds, orioles, meadowlarks) Unknown
Adult:
Mammals Juvenile
Mammals Adult
Didelphidae (opossum) Unknown
Talpidae (moles) Unknown
Leporidae (rabbits, hares) Unknown
Sciuridae (squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, prairie dogs) Unknown
Geomyidae (pocket gophers) Unknown
Cricetidae (woodrats,mice,voles,lemmings,muskrat) Unknown
Muridae (Norway rat, house mouse) Unknown
Erethizontidae (porcupine) Unknown
Canidae (coyote, wolf, fox) Unknown
Procyonidae (raccoon, ringtail) Unknown
Mustelidae (weasel, skunk, otter) Unknown
Cervidae (elk, deer, moose) Juvenile
Cervidae (elk, deer, moose) Adult
Bovidae (bison, goat, sheep, musk ox) Unknown
Ardeidae (herons, bitterns) Unknown
Anatidae (swans, geese, ducks) Unknown
Accipitridae (kites, hawks, eagles) Unknown
Galliformes Unknown
Phasianidae (pheasants, quail) Unknown
Charadriidae (plovers) Unknown
Columbidae (pigeons, doves) Unknown
Strigidae (owls) Unknown
Alcedinidae (kingfishers) Unknown
Corvidae (jays, magpies, crows) Unknown
Mimidae (mockingbirds, thrashers) Unknown
Icterinae (blackbirds, orioles, meadowlarks) Unknown
Carrion Not applicable

Comments on food habits: 
General: Consume a wide variety of mammals and birds *07*.
Juvenile: Initially are fed by parents (up to 60 days old) so can be considered to have same food habits as adults *11*.
Adult: Consume a wide variety of mammals and birds *07*.


ENVIRONMENTAL ASSOCIATIONS

General:

  • Cliffs/ledges: see comments
  • Ecotones: woodland/old fields
  • Ecotones: woodland/grassland
  • Hardwood forest: see comments
  • Human associations: state and county parks
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Limiting:

  • Cliffs/ledges: see comments
  • Hardwood forest: see comments

Egg

  • Cliffs/ledges: see comments
  • Hardwood forest: see comments

Feeding juvenile:

  • Cliffs/ledges: see comments
  • Hardwood forest: see comments
  • Human associations: state and county parks
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Resting juvenile:

  • Cliffs/ledges: see comments
  • Hardwood forest: see comments
  • Human associations: state and county parks
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Feeding adult:

  • Cliffs/ledges: see comments
  • Ecotones: woodland/old fields
  • Ecotones: woodland/grassland
  • Hardwood forest: see comments
  • Human associations: state and county parks
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Resting adult:

  • Cliffs/ledges: see comments
  • Hardwood forest: see comments
  • Human associations: state and county parks
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Breeding adult:

  • Cliffs/ledges: see comments
  • Hardwood forest: see comments

Comments on environmental associations:
General: Golden eagles are associated with mountainous regions, rocky cliffs and tall trees. Need high points on landscape for food surveillance and nesting sites *08,11*.
Egg: Nests are built on rocky cliffs and tall trees, using sticks and branches for the base and vegetation from local trees and shrubs for a lining *06,07,11*.
Feeding juvenile: Juveniles are fed in the nest until approximately 60 days old. Nests are located on cliffs and the upper branches of tall trees *11*.
Resting juvenile: Juveniles remain in nest until fledged at 60-70 days. Nests are located on cliffs and the upper branches of tall trees *11*.
Feeding adult: Adults utilize cliffs and tall trees near open areas for food surveillance. Prey is captured both on the ground and on the wing *07, 11*.
Resting adult: Adults are associated with mountainous regions, rocky cliffs, and tall trees *07,08,11*.
Breeding adult: Courtship is aerial with copulation occurring near the nest site. Nests are built on rocky cliffs and in the upper branches of tall trees *07,11*.


LIFE HISTORY

Origin: Native; is thought to have nested here throughout the state prior to 1867 *02*.

Physical description: Adult - evenly black above and below, or with white at the base of the tail; crown and neck with lanceolate feathers tipped and edged golden buff or tawny; bill and claws black; size - wingspread 6 1/2-7 1/2 ft., length 30-40 in. *11,12*. see *11* for description of immatures and *12* for confusing species.

Reproduction: Breeding season - February-May in contiguous U.S. *07*. Incubation period - 35-45 days *11*. Clutch size - usually 2 *11*. Male and female age at sexual maturity - probably don't breed until 4 years old *11*. One reproductive period/year *11*.

Behavior: Territoriality - defend area around nest site; home range size - varies depending on habitat; in california averages 35 sq. mi. and in forested areas such as the northeastern U.S. may be as high as 200 sq. mi. *11*; Foraging strategy- use high places to survey surroundings and fly over home range seeking prey; capture prey both on land and on the wing *07,11*. Migration - there is southern migration by eagles with northern breeding grounds (above approximately latitude 55 n) from September-October; return north from March- April *11*. Nest site - build nests on rocky cliffs, mountain crags, and upper branches of tall trees *06,11*. Development of young - in about 80% of cases where 2 young hatch, the elder kills the younger; feathers appear at 21-25 days and by 45-50 days are fully feathered; are able to fly at about 65-70 days *09,11*. Parental care of young - incubation is usually by female; both parents feed young with female contributing more as young approach fledging stage *09,11*.

Limiting factors: Habitat destruction, poisoning, shooting, and trapping *10*; dieldrin poisoning causing eggshell thinning *09*; have not suffered as much from pesticide poisoning as some other raptors due to its heavy dependence on mammals for its diet *10*.

Population parameters: Relative trend unknown; probably unstable due to habitat destruction *00*. Average lifespan - 10 years *11*.

 


MANAGEMENT PRACTICES

Beneficial:

  • Maintaining undisturbed/undeveloped areas
  • Maintaining natural areas and nature preserves
  • Maintaining unique or special habitat features (wetlands, snags, caves, cliffs, talises, etc.
  • Performing field survey prior to prescription
  • Developing/maintaining riparian habitat
  • Site preparation for revegetation of mined land- establishing noncommercial forest
  • Site preparation for revegetation of mined land- establishing woody wildlife area
  • Thinning operations in forest areas
  • Reforestation
  • Developing/maintaining forest openings
  • Deferring for old growth in forest areas
  • Deferring for special management (e.g. for cavities and snags) in forest areas
  • Developing/maintaining forest edge
  • Developing/maintaining mature hardwood forest
  • Maintaining forests
  • Prohibiting hunting
  • Maintaining large trees for denning, nesting, or roosting

Adverse:

  • Applying insecticide
  • Strip mining
  • Cutting and deforestation
  • Removal of old trees

Existing:

  • Prohibiting hunting

Comments on management practices:
Management for the golden eagle should focus on providing and maintaining wintering habitat *00,01*.


REFERENCES

0. SANDBERG, S. 1986. ILL. NAT. HIST. SURV., 607 E. PEABODY DR., CHAMPAIGN, IL. 61820. (217)333-6846.

1. BOHLEN, H. 1978. AN ANNOTATED CHECK-LIST OF THE BIRDS OF ILLINOIS. ILLINOIS STATE MUS. POP. SCI. SER., VOL. IX. 156 P.

2. RIDGWAY, R. 1895. THE ORNITHOLOGY OF ILLINOIS. VOL. 1. 1913. REPRINT BY PANTAGRAPH PRINTING & STATIONERY CO., BLOOMINGTON, ILLINOIS. 520 PP.

3. LINNE, C. VON. 1758. FALCO CANADENSIS LINNAEUS. SYSTEMA NATURAE ED. 10. VOL. 1. P. 88.

4. ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION. 1980. CONSERVATION LAWS. CH. 61. WILDLIFE. ART. II. PAR. 2.2. REPRINTED FROM ILLINOIS REVISED STATUTES, 1979. WEST PUBL. CO., ST. PAUL, MN. 123 PP.

5. U.S. FISH WILDLIFE SERVICE. 1983. CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS. TITLE 50. WILDLIFE AND FISHERIES. CHAPTER 1. PP. 11-18. 50 CFR 10.13. LIST OF MIGRATORY BIRDS. SPECIAL PUBL. FEDERAL REGISTER. GENERAL SERVICES ADMIN. OCTOBER 1.

6. SLEVIN, J.R. 1929. A CONTRIBUTION TO ONE KNOWLEDGE OF THE NESTING HABITS OF THE GOLDEN EAGLE. PROC. CALIFORNIA ACAD. SCI. SER. 4. 18(3):45-71.

7. BENT, A.C. 1937. LIFE HISTORIES OF NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS OF PREY. ORDER FALCONIFORMES (PART 1). U.S. NATL. MUS. BULL. 167. 409 PP.

8. HAUSMAN, L.A. 1948. BIRDS OF PREY OF NORTHWESTERN NORTH AMERICA. RUTGERS UNIV. PRESS, NEW BRUNSWICK, NEW JERSEY. 164 PP.

9. ELLIS, D.H. 1979. DEVELOPMENT OF BEHAVIOR IN THE GOLDEN EAGLE. WILDL. MONOGR. NO. 70. 94 PP.

10. HAMERSTROM, F. 1972. BIRDS OF PREY OF WISCONSIN. DEPT. NAT. RES. WISCONSIN, MADISON. 64 PP.

11. BROWN, L. & D. AMADON. 1968. EAGLES, HAWKS, & FALCONS OF THE WORLD. VOL. 2. MCGRAW-HILL BOOK CO. NEW YORK. 945 PP.

12. PETERSON, R.T. 1947. A FIELD GUIDE TO THE BIRDS. HOUGHTON MIFFLIN CO., BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS. 230 PP.

 


 

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