Europe, North Asia, North America, North Africa, and Japan


Mostly mountainous areas with temperate weather

The brown and the beautiful

The golden eagle is a large bird of prey that belongs to the hawk and eagle family. With broad, rounded wings, the colors of the eagle's feathers range from black-brown to dark brown. But it's the striking golden head and neck that give the bird its common name.

Super vision

Eagles can see much better than a human with perfect vision can. Golden eagles have large eyes that take up most of the space of the eagle's head. Their keen eyes can see clearly and in color, allowing the eagle to spot movement from a long distance. Although golden eagles can see extremely well during the day, they can see no better at night than we can. Their eyes don't move much in the eye socket, but an eagle can rotate its head about 270 degrees, just like an owl can, to look around. Golden eagles also have a clear eyelid that protects their precious eyes from dust and dirt.

Golden eagles can reach speeds of up to 120 miles (193 kilometers) per hour during a dive, in play or after prey.
In central Asia, golden eagles are sometimes trained for falconry. Hunters in Kazakhstan still use these eagles to catch deer and antelope.
Eagles have about 7,000 feathers.
The talons of a golden eagle are thought to be more powerful than the hand and arm strength of any person.
In Greek and Roman mythology, the golden eagle was the messenger of the gods.
Falconers in medieval Europe referred to golden eagles as royal eagles.
Researchers studying the Rosetta stone realized the hieroglyph of an eagle translated as the letter "a" in Greek.
The golden eagle is the national bird of Mexico, Albania, Germany, Austria, and Kazakhstan.
The golden eagle is the official “war eagle” during Auburn University’s football season. Its mascot does flights around the Alabama school’s stadium before each home game.

Golden eagles have been a part of San Diego Zoo Global’s collection on and off since our early days in the 1920s. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Frequent Flyers bird show rehabilitates injured wild golden eagles brought to us by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. We offer these birds a safe place to recover their flying skills before release back into the wild.

Currently, a golden eagle named Tonka soars down to the bird show audience at the Safari Park. A hiker in the Angeles National Forest found a young Tonka on the ground with an obvious injury that turned out to be a broken right hip. She imprinted on humans during her recovery at a wildlife rehabilitation center. Tonka spent some time with a falconer as well before coming to the Safari Park in 2004.

Tonka requires a large enclosure, special food items, lots of enrichment, and exercise. We are happy to provide this care for Tonka. In turn, she gives guests an incredible, up-close experience. Although golden eagles are known to be shy, Tonka is a confident bird. She has been on national television and even made an appearance at a Padres game during National Zoo Keeper Week. She is not bothered by large groups or modern marvels that may make other wild animals a bit uncomfortable.

The best way to see Tonka is to attend the Safari Park’s animal encounters, where she is a star on the Ambassador Stage. At times, we display her exercise routine (flights) near the Park’s Okavango Outpost. She is a beautiful ambassador for her species.

In past years, ranchers killed thousands of golden eagles, thinking the birds preyed on young sheep and goats. Yet studies showed there was no evidence that the eagles attacked sheep or other livestock. Instead, it was found that rabbits were the eagles' main food source. In 1962, golden eagles became a federally protected species.

Unfortunately, many golden eagles are still killed by ranchers or others for their feathers. And their propensity to seek out strong winds can bring the birds into proximity with wind farms. Dozens of eagles are killed each year when they land on exposed power lines or attempt to fly through wind farms. Others are caught in traps set for other animals or are poisoned by tainted bait or lead shot buried in their prey. But the main reason for their decline in numbers is loss of habitat.

San Diego Zoo Global works with energy companies to track golden eagles in Southern California and Baja California, Mexico. Several golden eagles wear miniaturized GPS transmitters so their movement patterns can be monitored remotely. The data from the eagles helps us track their movement patterns and habitat use across seasons. This information can help plan the best locations for wind farms. We hope this predictive management tool can minimize the risk of harm to the birds and their habitats.

You can help us bring eagle species back from the brink by supporting the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy. Together we can save and protect wildlife around the globe.