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The golden eagle

Aquila chrysaetos

The golden eagle has always fascinated man. It is a central character in the most ancient mythologies, a symbol of strength, intelligence and courage, and it is also the emblem of Stelvio National Park.
With its imposing wingspan of up to 2.3m and its weight that can reach 6kg, the golden eagle is the biggest day-time bird of prey in Europe. There is no visible difference between the sexes, except the size: the female is definitely larger. The wings are rather narrow; they have a regular silhouette and become noticeably smaller where they are attached to the body. The dominant colour of the golden eagle’s plumage is dark brown and the nape is golden yellow. The beak is strong and curved, and the feet are covered with feathers and equipped with very strong talons. Young birds have white spots on their feathers. The golden eagle’s flight is characterized by very little wing movement, and whilst it glides along, the wing-quills are particularly extended and turned upwards. This monogamous species can reach over thirty-five years of age, in captivity the record is fifty years. Towards the end of March, the female will lay one or two eggs. From the first egg, which is laid two to five days before the second one, a chick will hatch after forty-five days. In most cases, also due to the phenomenon that the biggest chick will kill the other one, only one of the young will survive. The bridal flight during the reproductive season is particularly moving.
The golden eagle
The golden eagle


The golden eagle is faithful, both to its companion and to its territory. This species does not have any particular requirements with regard to its habitat: the determining factors in the choice of its territory are food availability and the presence of suitable sites for building the eyrie. The required hunting area is rather large, varying between 30km2 and 100km2.
Toward the end of the winter, you may watch the golden eagle’s ritual flight, whose objective it is to mark out its territory clearly. This behaviour is, of course, more frequent where the population density is high.
The eaglets remain in the vicinity of their parent’s eyrie for a long time but are resolutely sent away at the beginning of the new breeding season, when their parents display aggressive behaviour that forces the young eagles to look for a new home area.
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