Golden eagles(Aquila chrysaetos) are one of the world's largest predatory birds. Females(2.9 to3.3 ft, with a wingspan of 7 - 7.5 feet) are ususally larger than males(2.6 to 2.9 ft; wingspan of 6 - 7 ft). They have dark brown plumage with golden accents on the back of neck that may continue around the face and onto the breast. To the untrained eye (such as mine) they appear very much like immature bald eagles, though their bills are shorter and darker. The cere (area just behind the beak) on a golden eagle is bright yellow, while the cere on an immature bald eagle is darker, ranging from black to gray and only turning yellow when they reach adulthood. Their vocalizations can include a high-pitched kee-kee-kee or a high scream or squeal, but they are usually silent. (for more information and a sound clip of their voice, please visit the Hawk Conservancy site
Golden eagles can be found throughout much of the northern hemisphere as far south as North Africa, Arabia, the Himalayas. In North America, they breed from northern and western Alaska, east across northern Canada, and south to the highlands of northern Mexico. Primarily inhabiting hilly and mountainous regions, but also tundra, rugged deserts, and the plains, they prefer cliffs and large trees with horizontal branches for roosting and perching. Northernmost groupings migrate south for the winter, though in the more temperate parts of their range, golden eagles can remain in their territories all year. In the mountainous parts of the west, they will often move down into the valleys and plains during the winter, while in the arid Southwest, they will move to higher elevations after breeding.
These magnificent birds are incredible fliers. Using updrafts found on the sides of their mountain habitat, they can spiral high into the air until they are all but invisible to the eye and remain airborn for many hours without rest. They have 2 methods for hunting: in concentric circles, gliding at 10 or 15 meters over the land surface or spotting their prey from a high altitude and diving to it with semi-closed wings at up to 200 km/hr.
For ancient Mexicans, eagles symbolized the great, the high, the elevated. They believed that the sun, the god that gave light and life, turned into an eagle to hunt stars. This majestic bird fought the night and was reborn in victory. It fed on prickly pears, the fruit of cacti, which for the people represented the heart of men
The eagle has played a prominent role in the development of Mexico’s history. During the war of Independence, the golden eagle's imge was used in different banners by the insurgents as it symbolized victory and courage. It was eventually integrated into the Nation Emblem and is still a part of it today.
The golden eagle is also revered by the Huichol people living along the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains in the Mexican states of Jalisco and Nayarit. The Huichols call themselves Virarica ("the healing people") and are believed to have preserved the purest preColombian culture
in our hemisphere. The golden eagle, Grandmother Eagle Goddess(Tate Warika Uimari) is guardian of the South,(symbolizing the element of air, breath of life and healing). She is one of the guides into the Nierica( or passageway into the 'other' World) and connects the earth and sky.
For a period of time, I was fortunate enough to have studied Huichol Shamanism with Brant Secunda, the adopted grandson of the great Huichol Shaman, Don Jose Matsua. To learn more about these wonderful people, and about Huichol Shamanism, please visit The Dance of the Deer Foundation