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 Juvenile Bald Eagles & Golden Eagles - Differences
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By: JudyB (offline) on Sunday, December 19 2010 @ 11:59 AM EST (Read 79818 times)  
JudyB

Until they begin to develop their trademark white head and tail, young bald eagles look quite a lot like young golden eagles. This thread will show some of the ways to tell them apart, hopefully with pictures of both from our wonderful photographers.

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By: yalitldevl (offline) on Sunday, December 19 2010 @ 12:14 PM EST  
yalitldevl

The following is what I used in doing my research to bring here so I want to put it up first giving credit on all info and illustrations where it's due.

First source I used....

Citation

Trail, P.W. 2003. Identification of Eagle Feathers and Feet. Identification Guides for Wildlife Law Enforcement No. 3. USFWS, National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory, Ashland, OR.

IDENTIFICATION OF EAGLE FEATHERS AND FEET

Identification Guides for Wildlife Law Enforcement No. 3
Pepper W. Trail National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory 1490 East Main Street Ashland, OR 97520

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Second source I used...

The field identification of North American eagles

A detailed, simplified guide takes the puzzles out of positive
identification of our two widespreade eagles


William S. Clark and Illustrations by Brian Wheeler

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This first illustration by Brian Wheeler is of the Golden Eagle first from below then from above, ranging from juvenile to adult left to right

Click on image to download

The second is the Bald Eagle in the same order

Click on image to download


I would rather spend my life close to the birds than wishing I had wings

We are by nature observers, and thereby learners. That is our permanent state. ~ Emerson


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By: yalitldevl (offline) on Sunday, December 19 2010 @ 12:14 PM EST  
yalitldevl

Click on image to download

Click on image to download


I would rather spend my life close to the birds than wishing I had wings

We are by nature observers, and thereby learners. That is our permanent state. ~ Emerson


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By: yalitldevl (offline) on Sunday, December 19 2010 @ 12:15 PM EST  
yalitldevl

some of these pictures I'm hoping to replace with the originals which are bigger once I hear back (and now I can do it with the better pics!)

Bald Eagle juvenile feathers

Click on image to download

Golden Eagle juvenile feathers

Click on image to download

Tail feathers of each

Click on image to download


I would rather spend my life close to the birds than wishing I had wings

We are by nature observers, and thereby learners. That is our permanent state. ~ Emerson


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By: yalitldevl (offline) on Sunday, December 19 2010 @ 12:15 PM EST  
yalitldevl

Identifying the feet of bald and golden eagles is much simpler than identifying their feathers.


The lower legs (tarsi) of golden eagles are covered with feathers all the way to the base of the toes. In contrast, the lower legs of bald eagles are unfeathered, with exposed scaly skin (Fig. 15) This skin is usually distinctly orange-yellow in recently dead or frozen specimens, though it may fade to brownish once dried.

The massive appearance of eagle feet is immediately obvious, and should rule out confusion with any other raptors. This is easily confirmed by measurement: the central toe of both eagle species is at least 2 inches long without the talon, whereas the central toe of the next-largest North American raptors, the osprey and the ferruginous hawk, are at most 1.5 inches without the talon.

another one I'm hoping to replace with a full size (Houston we have contact! here's the better pic)

comparing the feet

Click on image to download


I would rather spend my life close to the birds than wishing I had wings

We are by nature observers, and thereby learners. That is our permanent state. ~ Emerson


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By: yalitldevl (offline) on Sunday, December 19 2010 @ 12:16 PM EST  
yalitldevl

Since we know about the Bald Eagle and we're trying to learn the differences between them and Golden, I'm putting up this fact sheet on the Golden for reference

GOLDEN EAGLE

The body and wing coverts are uniform brown. There is often a somewhat mottled appearance, especially on the adult, the result of new darker feathers contrasting with the older faded ones, but the mottling is never as distinct as that of immature Bald Eagles.

The golden nape ranges from pale tawny to dark orange and is present on most individuals, although on a few it may not be very obvious. The nape color is not related to age and probably remains constant throughout the bird's life.

Immature.

The tail is mostly white with a dark terminal bar. The amount of white varies among individuals from the basal half of the tail to almost its entirety. A variable amount of white occurs at the base of some flight feathers, especially the inner primaries and outer secondaries. This is highly visible from below, but appears as a much smaller area from above.

The eye color begins as dark brown and lightens as with the Bald Eagle.

Sub-adult.

In subsequent plumages the amount of white in the tail decreases progressively until the 5th or 6th year when none remains. Replacement primaries and secondaries have no white. The first molt begins around one year of age, but molts of the flight feathers are not completed annually (Cramp & Simmons 1979). Individuals from two to three years old usually retain a small amount of white, visible from below. The upper wing coverts have a tawny area in the shape of a bar. Considerable variation occurs in the eye color, which lightens to amber or light brown during this period.

Adult.

This plumage appears uniformly brown from a distance, but, at closer range, fine gray-brown barring in the secondaries and tail can be seen.The tawny wing bar is present in most individuals.

Vocalization.

This species is usually silent. Many researchers have spent considerable field time studying it and have never heard it call (Cramp & Simmons 1979). However, some North American individuals are vociferous near the nest (A. Harmam, pers. comm.)

I found that silent data rather interesting considering how vocal we know our Bald Eagles are

For a real eye-opening experience go to this link to hear the call of the Golden Eagle, sounds nothing like our Bald Eagles


Call of the Golden Eagle

This little snippet of info is from friendsofblackwater.org

Another way that golden and bald eagles differ is in the behavior of their young. Fratricide is the term used for when a sibling kills another sibling, and while fratricide occurs occasionally with bald eaglets, it is much more common in golden eagle nests. Some biologists estimate that 50 to 80 percent of second-born golden eagle chicks disappear, usually within the first couple weeks of life. Scarcity of food can increase the likelihood of fratricide, since it heightens competition between the chicks.

This photo from the Institute of Wildlife Studies shows the varying amount of prey items brought to the chick

Click on image to download


I would rather spend my life close to the birds than wishing I had wings

We are by nature observers, and thereby learners. That is our permanent state. ~ Emerson


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By: yalitldevl (offline) on Sunday, December 19 2010 @ 12:17 PM EST  
yalitldevl

I'm trying to get more info on the changes of the beak in the Golden Eagle and that's what I'm still working on. But right now I believe the Golden Eagle retains the black tip on it's beak for life. Now that won't help us much with identifying juveniles though since they both have it but here's the two beaks in adults.

Our well known Bald Eagle beak from USFWS public domain

Click on image to download

and the Golden Eagle beak from Wiki commons

Click on image to download

The other thing I noticed in doing this research is that the Golden eagle has more feathers on the nape and top of head that appear spikey. I have to dig more on that also to see if it's on the juveniles as well.

Range map of the Golden Eagle

source allaboutbirds.org

Click on image to download


I would rather spend my life close to the birds than wishing I had wings

We are by nature observers, and thereby learners. That is our permanent state. ~ Emerson


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By: yalitldevl (offline) on Sunday, December 19 2010 @ 01:13 PM EST  
yalitldevl

Alrighty then!

First, thanks Judy my friend Wub for setting this up for me to put all my research notes and photos to get this discussion moving. I have run into 3 different Content Provider threads where there were questionable juvenile eagles posted. Now we can bring them to this thread for discussion and analyzing instead of messing up their threads.

I'll post this link on said three threads and elsewhere.

We're open for business, bring it on! Green LOL

My hope here is that we can all learn together how to tell these two birds apart at the juvenile stage if it's even possible. I wish we had an expert to kick in but I'm afraid we're on our own


I would rather spend my life close to the birds than wishing I had wings

We are by nature observers, and thereby learners. That is our permanent state. ~ Emerson


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