Golden eagles are common in the Western half of the United States, but rare in our Eastern parts. So, the sighting was a big deal to me. I would have been thrilled to see just one, and here were three! I'm quite sure that at least two of them are sub-adults because of the white ankle socks and scattered white feathers. Also, when they took off, I could see white bums. Goldens do not acquire their definitive golden plumage until they are at least four years old. These eagles vary in size, the females being bigger than the males. Only Bald eagles and California Condors are bigger. Though not endangered, the Golden eagle is protected by the Bald Eagle And Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 (see http://www.animallaw.info/ for the statute). So, think again if you were going to pull out some of those golden feathers to line your own nest! To mess with one is a felony which can result in a year in jail, $100,000 fine or both. These eagles are scavengers like other eagles. They frequent open grasslands like this site, partly because they like a good snack of Prairie Dog. They will hunt almost anything under the size of a Mule deer, though there have been reported attacks on adult deer. When we drove through this area, we saw easily 150 Mule deer. I did not realize it when I took the photos, but later on zooming in on the eagles, I could see in the distance a herd of Muleys in the background (see photo #2 beyond the irrigation wheels). When locked onto a prey target, they can fly at speeds of 150 miles per hour! The Golden eagle is hunted by Coyotes, Bobcats, and the usual big predators.
Double click on this image for full screen and you can see the deer grazing in background.
The buffy-gold feathers of a mature Golden eagle are obvious on the nape of this handsome bird.
Gruesome! Double click to see the eye of the eagle on the left.