Golden eagle

Golden eagle


Golden eagle in flight

©Jon Hawkins

Golden eagle

Scientific name: Aquila chrysaetos
The enigmatic golden eagle disappeared from England and Wales in the 19th century due to severe persecution. Scottish birds suffered from the use of pesticides in the 20th century. Luckily, golden eagle numbers are soaring high today thanks to conservation efforts.

Species information


Length: 76-90cm
Wingspan: 2.2m
Weight: 3.7-5.3kg
Average lifespan: 23 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Green under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2021). Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

When to see

January to December


The golden eagle is the top predator in the Scottish countryside; it is a massive bird of prey that mainly hunts rabbits and mountain hares, but will also catch foxes and large birds like grouse. It can be seen soaring high in the sky in upland areas and remote glens in the north and west of Scotland. Golden eagles have large home territories, nesting on rocky cliff faces and in trees where it builds a giant nest or 'eyrie'. These nests are often used by successive generations to rear their own young. Golden eagles pair for life.

How to identify

The golden eagle is a massive bird of prey, with longer wings and a longer tail than the rarer white-tailed eagle. Adults are mainly dark brown, with a golden head and neck. Young birds have white patches in their wings and a white base to the tail.


Found in the uplands of Scotland.

Did you know?

The golden eagle is the national bird of Germany, Mexico and Afghanistan. It is revered in many countries, forming the basis of everything from coats of arms to spiritual customs. It is even used to hunt and kill wolves in certain Central Asian communities.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts work closely with farmers and landowners to ensure that our wildlife is protected and to promote wildlife-friendly practices. By working together, we can create Living Landscapes: networks of habitats stretching across town and country that allow wildlife to move about freely and people to enjoy the benefits of nature. Support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.