National Geographic : 1967 Sep
We believe that pairs mate for life. A "homeland" may be held by the same pair of birds for many years. If one dies, the survivor soon finds a new mate, and the continuity of occupancy remains unbroken. One nesting site in southern Montana has been used for 30 years. Another, according to a rancher who lives near it, has been occupied for nearly half a century. Female Larger and More Deadly Equipped for a predatory life, the eagle has a strong hooked beak and large feet armed with long curved talons. The female grows nearly a third larger than the male. Her foot, which may cover an area as large as a man's hand, wields talons that can drive through a careless handler's palm (page 424). The strength, courage, and powerful flight of the golden eagle have benefited man since the time of Kublai Khan. Marco Polo wrote, "There are also [in China] a great number of eagles, all broken to catch wolves, foxes, deer, and wild goats...." Hunters still train and fly golden eagles in some parts of China and the Soviet Union (page 430). Close relatives of the golden eagle live in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. The 436 wedge-tailed eagle of Australia and Ver reaux's eagle of Africa are fearless hunters. On the other hand, the imperial, steppe, and tawny eagles of Asia rarely attack large prey unless trained to do so. They habitually steal food from smaller birds of prey, and Indian falconers easily decoy them into captivity. When Frank and I visited a maharaja years ago, his huntsmen pinioned the wings of a luggar falcon so it could fly only a few hundred yards. They tied a ball of feathers to its talons, together with many hair nooses. When an eagle, soaring several thousand feet above, spotted the falcon carrying what ap peared to be food, it hurtled down to steal a Hot vigil over, Charles Craighead clam bers stiffly from a cramped cliffside blind. He and his cousin Derek often spent 18 hours spelling each other in such twig-and burlap hideaways, waiting for the right moment to photograph their wary subjects. On the threshold of independence, two 13-week-old fledglings in the Brackett Creek nest still receive an occasional handout, such as this ground squirrel, from a fierce-eyed mother. Parents first coaxed them from the aerie to try their wings two weeks earlier. Still poor fliers, the birds will remain nearby for several more months. Material used in the nest includes sticks and a mule-deer ant ler, lower left. White band at the tail and golden hackles at the neck help distinguish the young golden eagle, but even so it is fre quently confused with the juvenile bald eagle. Birds reach adulthood at about five years, when they mate, probably for life. Eagles have been known to live for 30 years, but their maximum life span has not been conclusively established. An adult male weighs approximately nine pounds, and the larger female 13 pounds. meal. The smaller bird rolled over and threw its feet up to protect itself, and the nooses effectively snared the eagle's talons. The fal con's spread wings acted as a drag, pulling the larger bird to earth, where hunters easily cap tured it and retrieved the falcon unharmed.* In the Western Hemisphere golden eagles range chiefly in Canada, Alaska, and the Rocky Mountain States. Favorite nesting *John and Frank Craighead described "Life With an Indian Prince" in the February, 1942, GEOGRAPHIC. They also told of their own earlier experiences "In Quest of the Golden Eagle" in the May, 1940, issue. nvubnn~nm . a* .. MP.n: nu ucrcn nnwnnu V n.,.+ .