The golden eagle is the UK's second largest bird of prey with a wingspan of over 2.25m (7ft). Only the white-tailed sea eagle is larger. Their habitats are moorland and mountainous regions, in the UK these being the Scottish Highlands and, up until summer 2016, the Lake District in the north west of England. In the past hey have been seen all over the British Isles, but currently there are only around 450 pairs. The last sighting in south east England was in 1837. Although their numbers are currently stable, they have been subject to persecution in the past which nearly wiped them out in Great Britain. They are now protected in the UK and in many other countries. Their natural range is all over the northern hemisphere. They are the most wide-spread of all eagles, this however doesn't mean that they are common, far from it.
Having a broad wing, they are built perfectly for soaring, where in the wild they ride thermals and other up-currents of air, looking for prey from a great height. Their eyesight is so good that if they could read, they would be able to read a newspaper from the other end of a football pitch, so spotting a hare or rabbit from 2 miles away isn't hard for them at all!!! Once prey is spotted, the golden eagle folds it's wings in and goes into a dive called a "stoop". At the end of this dive it will level out, travelling at great speed close to the ground where it will try to surprise its prey, hitting hard and attempting to carry it away. It's talons are huge, very sharp and its feet powerful at gripping - that's why our eagle gauntlets are triple thickness leather!!!
Golden eagles pair for life, and will often use the same nest site, high up on a cliff or tall tree, for generations. They mate in the spring and the female may lay up to four eggs, although typically only one or two of the young survive. After a six week incubation, the eggs hatch, and all being well the eaglets will fledge three months later, after which their parents continue to feed them while they learn to hunt, until the young become fully independent by the autumn.
The golden eagle is regarded by many civilisations as a mystical bird and has been a strong symbol throughout history where it appears in heraldry, especially throughout the middle ages. Our golden eagle "Morpheus" was born in May 2016 and has become one of our stars, showing the power and majesty of one of the world's most famous birds of prey.