montage of foxes, a thistle and a kestrel
Official website of Scotland's premier long distance route

Home The Area Natural History Birds Golden Eagles

Golden Eagles


This majestic 'upland' eagle is aptly named for its golden- brown plumage, with head and nape feathers a slightly lighter, gold colour. Measuring 27-33 inches (70-84 cm) in length, the golden eagle has a wingspan of 78 inches (2 m) and weighs 7-14 pounds (3.2-6.4 kg).

The Golden eagle is long-lived, with a life span in the wild believed to be 30 years or more. It is also believed a pair mates for life and defends a selected territory against other golden eagles. Both the male and female participate in nest building, occasionally in a tree but more often on a cliff ledge, commonly with the protection of an overhanging tree or rock. The nest is made of large sticks and often contains aromatic leaves, which may serve to deter insects. Since the same nest may be used and added to (decorated) year after year, they sometimes get quite large.

Where to see it:

It lives in the wild open moorlands and mountains of Scotland, favouring islands and remote glens. Best looked for soaring high over hillsides in the Scottish Highlands. (Keep your eye out when walking along the Way on this type of terrain and you might see one of these amazing birds.)

They have a graceful flight with their wing tips slightly upturned. Amazingly, they can attain speeds of 128 km/h (80mph), but their average speed is 48 km/h (30 mph). They have very good eyesight; they perch near a good hunting area in a location that has regular updrafts. After the prey has been found, they dive down to seize and kill the victim with their sharp talons. Sometimes they capture their prey in the air. Their attacks are generally made upwind so that the eagle has a high degree of manoeuvrability and aerodynamic control. Prey has a hard time escaping because they are forced into the wind. They usually fly to the ground and attack during low, high-speed glides or low flapping flights.

<< back to Birds page