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Hawks, Eagles, and Falcons of North Dakota

JPG -- Picture of Species

Golden Eagle
Aquila chrysaetos

The golden eagle may be seen throughout the badlands and along the upper reaches of the Missouri River in western North Dakota. It gets its name from the characteristic golden wash located on the backside of the head. Other key field characteristics which aid in identification are its dark brown color and large size. The golden eagle is often seen perching on ledges and rocky outcroppings or soaring effortlessly over hillsides in search of prey. When diving to make a kill, golden eagles can obtain speeds of 150-200 miles per hour.

The golden eagle preys primarily upon small mammals such as prairie dogs, ground squirrels, and dead animals such as deer and antelope. When its primary prey is scarce it will also take snakes, crows, and predatory mammals such as fox and mink.

Golden eagles nest from May to June with 1 to 4 eggs being layed. The nests can become quite massive, usually 8 to 10 feet across and 3 to 4 feet thick. The largest nest ever recorded was built in a tree and was 17 feet deep and 4 feet wide. A nesting pair of golden eagles may build up to 10 nests with only 2 or 3 actually ever being used. The female does most of the incubation which lasts about 35 days. The young eagles usually take to flight 65-70 days after hatching.

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