Scientific name: Aquila chrysaetos
Cover photo credit: JD Taylor
“Endangered” means the species lives in the wild in Ontario but is facing imminent extinction or extirpation.
Date added to the Species at Risk in Ontario List
The Golden Eagle was already assessed as endangered when the Endangered Species Act took effect in 2008.
What it looks like
The Golden Eagle is one of Ontario’s largest and most powerful birds of prey. The species is named for the golden-brown feathers on the back of its neck, head and upper wings, but the rest of the body is mostly dark brown.
Young birds have lots of white visible on the base of the tail and in the interior of the wing, but this white will largely disappear by their fifth year.
Juvenile Bald Eagles can look very similar to Golden Eagles, however, the legs of the Golden Eagle are completely feathered while the legs of the Bald Eagle have no feathers immediately above the feet.
When soaring, Golden Eagles hold their wings slightly above the horizontal and show less head and neck and a longer tail than the Bald Eagle.
Where it lives
Golden Eagles nest in remote, undisturbed areas, usually building their nests on ledges on a steep cliff or riverbank, but they will also use large trees if needed.
Most hunting is done near open areas such as large bogs or tundra. During migration they could be encountered anywhere, but are most frequently seen migrating west along the shores of Lake Ontario and Erie in November.
Small numbers also winter in the southern half of Ontario, most often near large deer wintering areas where carcasses might be found.
Where it’s been found in Ontario
In Canada, Golden Eagles are most common in the western mountains and prairies but are also fairly widespread in Labrador and Quebec’s Ungava peninsula.
In Ontario, breeding Golden Eagles are presently known only from the Hudson Bay Lowland, although there is some evidence suggesting they once nested much further south.
Currently there are believed to be 10 to 20 pairs in the province.
What threatens it
Golden Eagles are very sensitive to disturbance near their nests and could abandon them if harassed or kept away from the eggs or young too long.
They have also suffered greatly from human persecution, such as illegal shooting and trapping, although with improved attitudes toward predators in general, these problems have diminished greatly in recent decades.
Electrocution on power lines is a continuing problem in western North America, and collisions with wind turbines have been documented at some sites.
The Golden Eagle can also be harmed by chemicals and toxins in the animals that it eats.
Action we are taking
Endangered Species and their general habitat are automatically protected
A recovery strategy advises the ministry on ways to ensure healthy numbers of the species return to Ontario.
Read the executive summary (March 2, 2015)
Read the recovery strategy (March 2, 2015)
Government response statement
A government response statement outlines the actions the government intends to take or support to help recover the species.
Read the government response statement (March 23, 2016)
Review of progress
A review of progress made toward protecting and recovering a species is required no later than the time specified in the species’ government response statement, or not later than five years after the government response statement is published if no time is specified.
Read the report on progress towards the protection and recovery of 18 species at risk, including Golden Eagle (2021).
General Habitat Protection - June 30, 2008
What you can do
Report a sighting
- Report a sighting of an endangered animal or plant to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful.
- Bird Studies Canada is working to advance the understanding, appreciation and conservation of wild birds and their habitat in Ontario and elsewhere. For more information on how you can help, visit:
- Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.
Be a good steward
- Private land owners have a very important role to play in species recovery. If you find a Golden Eagle nesting on your land, you may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
Report illegal activity
- Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
- Increasing numbers of sub-adult Golden Eagles are spending the summer along the Hudson Bay coast, where they hunt the abundant snow goose at their nesting colonies.
- The Golden Eagle has a wingspan of just over two metres and can weigh as much as six kilograms.
- The number of Golden Eagles being seen at traditional Ontario hawk migration monitoring stations has increased greatly in the past two decades. In the fall of 2008, several stations on Lake Ontario and Erie reported more than 50 in one day – a number that would have seemed unbelievable even a decade ago.