Golden Eagles in California

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.


brown eagle perched in a tree
Golden Eagle. USFWS photo by George Gentry.

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.


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.

Submission of Golden Eagle Data

The CDFW and USFWS staff led an effort to develop the CA/NV Golden Eagle Database. You can submit data to the Golden Eagle Database by filling in the CNDDB Golden Eagle Database Submission Template (PDF) and sending directly to Kate Keiser. In addition to a blank spreadsheet to submit data, this template also provides detailed instructions, field definitions and values, sample data, and references. For general inquires related to the database you may contact Carie Battistone.

You may also submit golden eagle data using the CNDDB Online Field Survey Form. This form is an internet application that allows users to map an observation of a rare species, including but not limited to golden eagles, and submit the location and associated data in a single step. First time users will need to set up an account but will not need a CNDDB subscription to submit data.

Prepared by Carie Battistone
Wildlife Biodiversity Program, Wildlife Branch