Golden Eagle

Aquila chrysaetos

Iolar firéan

Status: Formerly bred in Ireland and currently being re-introduced into Donegal. Wandering birds from this project have been observed in upland areas throughout Ireland.

Conservation Concern: Red-listed due to its very small breeding population. The European population has been evaluated as Rare due to there being less than 10,000 breeding pairs.

Identification: Ireland’s second largest bird of prey, being almost twice the size of Common Buzzard. Adult birds generally appear a uniform dark brown when seen at a distance in flight. In good light, a pale patch may be seen on the upperwing, as well as some limited barring on the tail. When seen at close range, the massive size is immediately apparent, as is the golden coloured head. Juvenile birds have large white patches on the wings, as well as a large white rump and tail (dark-tipped). Over the next four to five years it takes for subadult Golden Eagles to mature, these white patches are gradually reduced through moult to reach adult plumage.

Similar Species
: White-tailed Eagle and Common Buzzard.

Call: Generally silent when seen in Ireland.

Diet: Actively hunts a wide variety of larger birds (grouse, crows, gulls), as well as mammals (rabbits, young foxes). Will also eat carrion.

Breeding: Formerly bred in Ireland – extirpated in the 18th Century. Currently being re-introduced into County Donegal to re-establish an Irish breeding population. Around 400 pairs breed in Scotland. Widespread but nowhere common in Continental Europe.

Wintering: Eagles are generally resident, though young birds may wander during the winter.

Where to See: Glenveagh National Park in County Donegal.

Monitored by: BirdTrack and the Golden Eagle Trust.

* Source Feb 2017