Golden eagle adult flying in the Cairngorms

Hunting and feeding

Golden eagles hunt over land by flying low and striking with talons in a brief rush or swift pounce - only rarely do they stoop from height after prey.

Eating habits

The bird relies on surprise attack – ensuing chases rarely succeed. While pairs may hunt co-operatively, it is rare for numbers of birds to congregate at a food source.

Eagle diet is principally mammals and birds, taken both alive and as carrion. Main live prey consists of medium sized mammals and birds such as rabbits, hares, grouse and ptarmigan. The diet of coastal birds includes gulls and other seabirds. Larger items are taken as carrion.

The maximum weight most golden eagles can lift is 4-5kg, hence tales of very large animals or even children being carried away are to be viewed with scepticism. 

In the western Highlands of Scotland where live prey is scarce, the eagles depend largely on carrion, especially during the winter months. The average daily food requirement is 250g. After a large meal, an eagle may not need to eat again for several days.

 Golden eagle at nest