California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Golden Eagles in California

USFWS Photo by George Gentry Golden Eagle. USFWS Photo.

The golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) is listed as a fully protected species in California.

Distribution and Abundance

Golden eagles are found throughout North America, but are more common in western North America. Little is known about the eagle abundance, but it is thought that numbers may be declining in some, if not all, parts of their range. Golden eagle abundance in California is unknown.


Most golden eagles in California are resident (e.g. they stay in the state yearlong), but some migrate into California for winter. Those that stay yearlong may move downslope for the winter, or upslope after breeding season. Golden eagles inhabit a variety of habitats including forests, canyons, shrub lands, grasslands, and oak woodlands

The golden eagle breeds from late January through August and produces 1-3 eggs. Nests are constructed on platforms on steep cliffs or in large trees. The main prey species for the golden eagle are rabbits, hares and rodents; but eagles will also takes other mammals, birds, and reptiles. Carrion (e.g. carcasses found on the landscape) is also a part of the eagle diet, especially during winter months.


USFWS Photo by George Gentry Golden Eagle. USFWS Photo.

Threats to this large bird of prey are varied, and include loss of foraging areas, loss of nesting habitat, pesticide poisoning, lead poisoning and collision with man-made structures such as wind turbines.

Population Status and Trend

Little is known about the population trend for golden eagles. The Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) has long-term dataset that can be used to assess general population trends. However, no strong trend exists for the golden eagle in California.

Additional Golden Eagle Information

-- Prepared by Carie Battistone
Nongame Wildlife Program, Wildlife Branch.