Latin name: Aquila chrysaetos
Length: 76 - 89cm Wingspan: 190 - 227cm
Where: The Trossachs Bird of Prey Trail; possible sightings over any upland area in the Park
When: All year round
Although the golden eagle is perhaps Scotland’s best known bird you will be lucky indeed if you see one in the Park. Only a few pairs breed in the area, hidden away in our remotest glens. They build their airy nests on cliff ledges, or sometimes in venerable old pine trees. They will use the same nest for many years, adding to it each season until it becomes a tower of branches and twigs over a metre high.
In winter and early spring the adults perform a dramatic mating dance together, tumbling through the sky with talons locked together in what looks like mortal combat. As they near the ground they suddenly break apart and swoop into the air again like fighter jets. Later in the summer you may see the adults quartering the moorland for food for themselves and their chicks – hares, rodents, and, when they strike lucky, a dead red deer.
The golden eagle population was decimated in the last century due to persecution by gamekeepers. Conservation organisations have been working hard to ensure that these magnificent birds return to the many places in Scotland where they used to be a familiar sight. If you do suspect you’ve spotted one, check out the ends of its wing feathers. Some people think they have seen an eagle when in fact it’s a buzzard, whose wings-ends are rounded. Buzzards are also much smaller, but this is sometimes hard to gauge at distance. If the wings are splayed like outstretched fingers you’re very lucky– you’re probably looking at a golden eagle.
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