What Is the Difference Between a Bald Eagle & a Golden Eagle?


Ornithologists categorize bald eagles and golden eagles as very large raptors with hooked beaks, long and broad wingspans, and long broad tails. Nations have chosen each bird as their national symbol. They each hunt, mate for life, and live long. They differ in appearance, diet and geographic distribution.

Bald Eagle Basics

The Bald Eagle in Context

  • The United States chose the bald eagle as its national symbol. It won that honor over Benjamin Frankilin's nomination of the wild turkey. The bird's symbolic status helped save the bird from extinction. Once considered on the verge of going the way of the carrier pigeon, this bird population enjoyed protection under the federal endangered species act. The government removed the bird from the list of threatened species in June, 2007.

Golden Eagle Basics

  • Golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) live throughout the northern hemisphere, most prolifically in the western U.S. and Eurasia. They live to 30 years in the wild and up to 55 years in captivity. These birds weigh up to 13 lbs. and have a wingspan of 7 1/2 feet. They have brown-colored feathers with gold feathers on the back of their heads. Hunting mainly medium-sized mammals, golden eagles will also feed on reptiles, other birds and carrion. They prefer open terrain, making nests in cliffs near deserts, plateaus and steppes.

The Golden Eagle in Context

  • The people of Mexico adopt the golden eagle as their national symbol. Ornithologists rank the golden eagle closer to hawks than to bald eagles. The people of Eurasia have used them as tamed birds of prey. The birds have become threatened by human activity in Eastern Europe, provoking protection measures similar to those for the bald eagle in the U.S.

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