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Golden eagle (Aquila) 207012 Mark Hamblin (rspb-images.com)24/02/2009

Powerful, majestic, rare and elusive - the golden eagle is one of the top birds on most watchers’ wish-lists. Doing this can take time and patience, including the care needed to tell a true eagle from the much commoner buzzard.

What to look for

Beware of the many buzzards (smaller than eagles, but sometimes hard to judge at a distance) soaring over the golden eagle’s Highland strongholds. To be sure of your goldie, look for long wings, wider beyond the ‘elbow’ than near the body, and a longish, rounded tail. Younger eagles have big white patches on the upper wing and white bands beneath.

Interesting facts

Golden eagles are good scavengers, so benefit from finding deer remains. But their breeding success is best when they can catch live prey, such as mountain hares, red grouse and rabbits and occasional lambs.

When and where to see

Golden eagles stay in the uplands all year. Numbers visible can be greatest in late summer and autumn, when fledged juveniles are on the wing. Some of the younger birds may travel hundreds of kilometres from their place of hatching - so don’t rule out any part of the Scottish moors and hills as eagle ground at this time. Hotspots are along the west coast and islands, from Mull and Lochaber, north and west through Skye to Lewis.

For more information see the RSPB's golden eagle page.