Telescopic vision and terrifying talons – be glad you’re not a Scottish rabbit.
Golden eagles are apex predators, adapted to hunt in very harsh landscapes. With a wingspan of more than two metres, they are huge birds, capable of lifting prey weighing as much as five kilograms.
There are documented cases of golden eagles attacking adult deer and even a bear cub but their usual targets are hares, foxes, grouse and, on the coast, seabirds.
Golden eagles nest in trees and on remote mountain crags. They can’t hunt in thick forest so they have specialized to scour moors and uplands. Food is much scarcer here and the eagles have to patrol huge territories; sometimes as much as 160km2.
To do this they operate like stealth bombers, flying very high above the ground to scan a wide area without alerting their prey. They need to be able to soar for hours at a time and strong enough to kill whatever animal presents an opportunity.
Golden eagle facts
Primary feathers – The gaps between the ‘fingers’ of the primary feathers help to fine-tune the airflow over the wings.
Powerful wing muscles – Golden eagles can weigh up to 7kg but must be able to take off from the ground in a single bound.
Tail – The tail can act as a rudder, to compensate for crosswinds or be spread wide to increase lift.
Flexible neck – Because the eyes are so large, they can barely move in their sockets, Instead the neck twists 270 degrees.
Large eyes – Facing forward to provide excellent binocular vision. They can spot a mountain hare from two miles away.
Deadly talons – The curved claws restrain prey and kill it. Smaller animals are simply carried aloft, back to the nest.