Friday, December 19, 2003
When and where seen: On November 29, Ken Harte saw a juvenile Golden Eagle flying in a northerly direction over his house on Estabrook Road. Golden Eagles are rare in Eastern Massachusetts. The range map in Sibley shows only isolated occurrences all down the east coast. Its preferred habitat is mountainous areas and open country. The Mass-Audubon Society has recorded a few sightings in Massachusetts this November and December.
Appearance: The Golden Eagle is mainly brown but gets its name from the golden color on the back of its neck. Its most striking characteristic is its size. Both Peterson and Sibley describe the bird as majestic. The average length of adults is 30 inches from tip of beak to tip of tail, and the wing span is 79 inches. It is marginally shorter than the bald eagle but heavier. Unlike the bald eagle, it has feathered legs. It has the hooked beak and sharp talons typical of raptors. In flight, the juvenile is easier to identify than the adult due to a white band on the tail before the dark terminal band. This is the "ringtail" plumage that is the basis for one of its common names. A. C. Bent describes the flight of the Golden Eagle as the "embodiment of grace and power." It circles and soars effortlessly with only occasional wingbeats.
Food: The Golden Eagle hunts mammals and birds mainly from the air, sometimes in a spectacular steep dive called a stoop, which is a lot like a swoop. Rabbits and rodents are commen prey but it can take quite large prey. In Life Histories of Familiar North American Birds there are several accounts of Golden Eagles successfully taking deer.
References: University of Michigan Museum of Zoology at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/; David Allen Sibley, The Sibley Guide to Birds, and The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior; Roger Tory Peterson, A Field Guide to the Birds East of the Rockies. Many sections of A. C. Bent's Life Histories of Familiar North American Birds, published in 1937, are available onlineask Google to find it.
Any kind of information for the Biodiversity Corner is encouraged. Please feel free to write the column, or tell me what you are finding, or send me a photo. The only requirements are that the subject exists in the wild and was seen in Carlisle. Send a note to Kay Fairweather at 392 School St, Carlisle MA 01741 or to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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