Avifauna of Crete


Golden Eagle
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The golden eagle (scient. Aquila chrysaetos) is the most dominant bird of prey in Europe, having a wingspan of 185-220cm and a body length of 75-90cm. Unfortunately, the species in Greece is endangered, with only a few pairs left, mostly in Crete.

When the eagle flies, it can be noticed by its golden throat (hence the name “golden”) and its long tail. The adult birds have a characteristic golden-colored head and neck, while the body and the wings are uniformly dark below the wings. Moreover, their legs are covered with feathers.

The Golden Eagle flies around by making small circles at heights reaching 5000m. The wings, when viewed from the front, shape a V. For its size, it is a very agile predator with high speed. It usually hunts in pairs. The flights of the eagle before the reproductive period are a unique experience, when they try to show off their territory to their partners. Then, the males fly at a great height and suddenly fall towards the ground with weft wings.

They are monogamous birds and mate with the same bird for all their lifetime. Females lay from one to four eggs in late February, and both parents incubate them for 40 to 45 days in nests located in remote cliffs. The chicks have no feathers. They stay in the nest for 11 weeks and are fed by their parents. Usually only one chick survives, which either kills all the others or eats all food, leaving others to die of starvation. The golden eagle can live for many years in welfare. Indeed, in the imperial palaces of Vienna, in captivity conditions and with proper care, there was an eagle that lived for 100 years.

Its diet consists of small birds and mammals of medium size, such as wild pigeons, patridges, rabbits and, sometimes, turtles, which they capture near mountain slopes, forests and open land. When eagles cannot find live animals, they feed on young goats or on dead animals. Indeed, although their weight does not exceed 10kg, it is able to lift and carry animals weighing up to 7kg.

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