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Golden Eagle Profile

Iolar Fíréan - Aquila Chrysaetos

If you are in the hills searching for Golden Eagles in the North west of Ireland, keep looking along every visible skyline, if you are lucky you may very occasionally spot an eagle above the ridge or breaking the skyline. It can be difficult to see an adult eagle against the upland vegetation so look for its silhouette against the sky. When scanning the ridge also check prominent perching spots, points were an eagle is likely to get maximum uplift, from the wind below, as it opens it large 6 foot wingspan. Listen out for Hooded Crows and Ravens, their anxious calls often denote they have spotted a nearby eagle. Perched or flying eagles are often only seen after their yelping call has drawn ones attention. Indeed the Gaelic word Iolar may come from the word Iolach, which translates as paean or victory chant or cry of exultation, which could relate to an eagles distinctive yelping.

Eagles can easily be confused with Buzzards. In 2001, following widespread media coverage of the Golden Eagles arrival in Glenveagh, numerous people began to phone Glenveagh National Park reporting where one of the eagles had turned up. These locations were noted, but merely referred to locations for the expanding Donegal Buzzard population, as all the eagles were still in the release cages in Glenveagh! Buzzards have a wingspan of 4 foot compared to the 6 foot wingspan of an eagle, but this can mean little at times when watching birds in the sky. Buzzards are normally found in enclosed farmland and on the edge of woodlands, Golden Eagles tend to be seen on the open mountain. Yet the species do overlap and it is almost a blessing to be faced with such raptor identification problems in Ireland once more. The longer tail and more obvious fingertips or splayed primaries of a Golden Eagle can help distinguish it from a Buzzard.

The long wings of a Golden Eagle become narrower towards the base and have a clearly bulging trailing edged to the mid wing (Forsman 1999). When, soaring Golden Eagles hold their wings in a shallow V. The golden head and nape of an adult can be visible from afar. Juveniles are uniformly dark brown with a very distinctive white tail band neatly bordered by a back terminal tail band. Old records from Mayo often refer to the Black Eagles being more likely to kill chickens and poultry, this probably arose from darker first year birds struggling to find food in their first winter and taking a risk to come off the hill in search of poultry. Immatures still retain their noticeable white wing-patches and the white-tail but their other feathers are much more mottled and appear faded and they have lost the uniformity of the juvenile plumage. The amount of white shrinks after each moult until it disappears at 5 or 6 years of age. Adults seen from below often simply look dark against the sky, their plumage can appear non descript in poor light. In bright light their back and wing coverts can look quite grey, bleached or faded.