The Eagle

fauna5

 Distinctive characteristics of the golden eagle are the impressive dimensions and the lengthened rectangular shape of its wings when soaring. It has a rather short tail in the shape of a large wedge. Young eagles, before 4 and 5 years, have evident white spots on the tail and wings when viewed from below and upon reaching maturity after the age of 5, they become completely brown. The adults on the other hand are recognized by their neck feathers which are golden in colour, almost shiny. “ Golden eagle”,is the meaning of its latin name.

The female, as with almost all predators, is bigger than the male. She is a formidable glider thanks to her large broad wingspan. She mainly needs to take advantage of ascending thermal air currents when moving from one area to another. For this reason, she prefers flying and it is therefore easier to watch her on clear beautiful days, when the sun heats up the air.

Tracks: they rarely make any sound when flying. Sometimes during the mating phase between February and March, you can hear their prolonged mournful cries. Around the nest or perches you can find large pieces of regurgitated food .( 8-10cm long).
Their habitat: generally they live in open areas where hunting is easy. They make their nests in a place lower than their hunting zone, this way it is easier to carry the prey back to the nest, especially if it’s heavy. The eagle can easily reach elevated heights such as 2.500-3000mt., if there is food or for lengthy flights from one zone to another.

Their food: their ideal prey in summer is the marmot. Sometimes they also hunt other small mammals like hares and bigger birds like the tetraonidi, but these are mostly hunted in winter. During bad seasons, it becomes an opportunist often feeding off dead carcasses. It can also go without food for quite a few days. Its hunting method is of particular interest. It flies extremely fast and close to the mountain walls and scope. In this manner it explores the territory and at the same time, it can unexpectedly swoop down onto prey.

Life and habits: once coupled, they are together for life. The nuptial show is spectacular: flying in loops, nosediving and wild acrobatics which now and then cause the two birds to hook onto each other with their talons. It is believed that the purpose of this show, other than marking off the couples territory, is also a way to off-load aggression, strengthening the ties amongst the two sexes. They build impressive nests, made up of a collection of small branches, preferably on cliffs at an altitude between 1.200 and 1.900 mt. They usually construct about 4 or 5 different nests which they rotate between over the years. They normally lay 2 eggs. The female broods between 42-45 days; the male gives her short breaks to allow her to hunt and feed. The little ones hatch around the middle of May and are covered by a warm white fuzz. Almost always only one eaglet survives, because the stronger sibling kills the weaker one (cainism) or because one of them cannot manage to get sufficient food. In the beginning it is the male that brings food to the nest about twice a day. The remaining eaglet grows fast and at the end of June it is already covered in feathers. It takes its first flight in mid July. The following year it has to look for its own hunting territory (60-80 km q) and after 3-4 years it is ready to find a companion.