Feeding and diet

Golden Eagles are not very choosy in their diet. What they eat is mainly a matter of what prey is available. Usually the prey items are of a weight of between 0.5 and 5.0 kg. The prey spectrum ranges from small rodents such as mice to rabbits, hares, marmots or the young of hooved animals or larger birds such as grouse. In certain areas, other, not so typical prey are taken, such as tortoises (in the Balkans), or hedgehogs (in Sweden).

In the Alps, marmots form a large part of the eagles` diet, the adult birds also feeding them to the young. In winter, when the marmots are hibernating and there is also less activity among other types of prey, the eagles must change their diet. Now they have to feed on carrion, usually game animals that have met their death through an avalanche. For every Golden Eagle that doesn`t have its own territory (young and non-breeding individuals), carrion is an important source of food not just in winter, but throughout the year.

During the summer in the Alps, Golden Eagles hunt mainly in the alpine grasslands where the density of marmots is highest. In winter they often hunt at lower altitudes in the sub-alpine zone. Thus the eagles tend to follow the behaviour of their prey, for example the mountain hare, which tends to move to slightly lower altitudes in winter.


Particularly in winter, Golden Eagles will also feed on carrion such as a chamois that has met ist death in an avalanche
(Foto: © N. Winding)
In the Alps marmots form the main part of the diet of the Golden Eagle
(Foto: © N. Winding)
Mountain hares are also part of the prey spectrum of Golden Eagles living in the Alps
(Foto © V. Verzi)

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