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Meeting a golden eagle for real


This weekend I have been away camping with cubs (my last cub camp because I'm moving up to Scouts !) so I'm going to write about something that happened just over a week ago. It was Take Your Child to Work day, and so I had been working with dad who is a photographer that morning, but in the afternoon he had arranged something special.

A few weeks before he had been at a big corporate event where there were falconers and lots of wild birds, including owls and a golden eagle ! He explained to the falconer that I had been sent a golden eagle skull, but I had never seen one for real, and the falconer at Elite Falconry said I could come up and see their two golden eagles !
I have seen birds of prey in the wild loads of times in the woods around my village. I mostly see buzzards, and there are tons of them, but I also see red kites, owls and more recently kestrels. There are actually only 140 breeding pairs of red kits in Scotland compared to 435 breeding pairs of golden eagles, but the golden eagles tend to be up in the Highlands, much further north than me.

I was extremely excited to see a golden eagle. When I walked up the outside of the falconry barn, I could see all the birds sitting outside. I recognised a peregrine falcon, but there were about eight or nine others. The golden eagle pair were at the far end. They were absolutely massive and looked fearsome. Golden eagles are actually only the second biggest raptor in the UK (the biggest is the white-tailed sea eagle). Its wingspan is 180 to 240 cm compared with the red kite which is 175-180cm, and the buzzard which is 110 to 135cm.

This is the male of the pair. I think he was 6 years old.

This is the female. She is older at about 9 years old . Female birds of prey tend to be bigger than males. Unfortunately, she doesn't like the male so they aren't going to breed and the falconry school is going to get a new male.

The bird of prey I know best is the buzzard and buzzards and golden eagles do look a bit alike. Here is the female golden eagle at top with the buzzard I rescued a year-and-a-half  ago at the bottom. They both have a dark hooked beak with yellow skin around the mouth, brown eyes and similar colour feathers:

It's easy to tell the difference the rest of the time, though. The buzzard golden eagle has a longer thicker neck, much bigger wings compared to the body, and it doesn't have any white on its chest. Adult golden eagles don't have any white under the wings either, but buzzards do. 

Buzzards and golden eagles both kill with their extremely strong claws. When I brought back the ill buzzard, the SSPCA officer told me to be very careful with the claws because they were immensely strong. One of the falconers said that after their golden eagle killed a fox, the back claw had not just gone straight through the skull, but it had gone in all the way into the skin part of the claw. He also told me a story about when a dead golden eagle was found with a strange hole in the back of its skull. When the vets checked, the found that the hole had been made by another golden eagle claw !

Here are the first three claws:

The back claw (at the far right) is longer and most dangerous:

Golden eagles are so strong and powerful they can catch and eat almost all small mammals up to about 4kg, including baby deer and foxes. Sometimes they carry away their prey, but sometimes they stay on the ground to eat it. 

This is the male after he ruffled up his feathers. He looks strange !

I was there for about two hours, all as a special favour to my dad, and I was really lucky to get a chance to see one for real. The falconers told me loads about the eagles and their other birds, and told me loads of stories about them. It was amazing ! I think golden eagles are beautiful animals. Thanks to Roxanne and Barry for letting me come and visit !

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Mori said...

I think under the eagle and buzzard comparison photos you wrote buzzard when you meant to write eagle, just a heads up.

It must have been amazing seeing the eagles up close! I saw a stuffed one in a museum recently and though I knew golden eagles were big (and saw one in flight in the wild once) it's different when you see them perched and close up, and it just hits you again with how huge they are. It is funny how they undignified that one looks with his feathers all fluffed up!

Jake said...

Oops ! Thanks !

jordan said...

wowowowowowowowowowwowowowow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! thats amazing...

Psydrache said...

A big YAY for birds of prey! It's always amazing to see them into the sky or in falconry shows. But was it cold there? You look so "well wrapped" ^-^

Jake said...

It's Scotland: it's always rainy !

Heathpaulbarnes said...

Jake i tink i may have recently found a Golden eagle ulna shaft ile be posting it soon if you have any info for me it would be welcome Heath http://historyofabeck.blogspot.com/

Jake said...

Cool find ! I don't know anything about the postcranial bones of a golden eagle, though, I just have a skull.

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