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Golden Eagle

Image of a Golden Eagle

Aquila chrysaetos

The golden eagle with its wing span of more than 2 m, strong claws and a very sharp beak, has always been the symbol of majesty. It stands at the top of the food chain and often hunts by flying at low altitudes over mountain territories, trying to surprise hares, foxes, rock partridges and rarely some chamois pups.

The nest is made up upon rock walls, often some hundred of meters high, and always placed at lower altitudes than the hunting territories, so that eagles can take advantage of gravity during the return flight, when the male brings back the prey to the brooding female or to the chicks waiting to eat. Generally two eggs are laid in a time interval of some days one from the other, but in most cases just one of the chicks gets to grow and flies away. In 90% of cases the bigger chick prevails taking away the food from the smaller one and also killing it, a behavior known as “cainism” (exceptions are rare and  happen where there’s a lot of food).

The golden eagle has been very affected by poaching and by hunting pressure, both determining the direct killing of many individuals and the dramatic decrease of natural preys. This fact, associated with relevant environmental transformations in many mountain areas, caused a long-lasting decrease in the population of this species affecting its reproductive potential.

In Abruzzo, mainly thanks to the institution of many mountain protected areas, this majestic species has currently settled again in many territories where its presence was gone lost. Within Majella National Park six territorial couples have been re-establishing since some years. The golden eagle is constantly monitored in the Park to verify the reproduction and the fledging of chicks (which happens generally in the middle of July), to control the formation of new couples and also to prevent new threats for a population that has reached the carrying capacity's threshold of the environment, but that at the same time is constantly at risk due to its high sensitivity to human interference.

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