Golden Eagle Vs Bald Eagle

Golden Eagle Vs Bald Eagle: Key Differences

Eagles are a very recognizable species of bird and are often associated with the US, but there actually various different types of eagles.

A lot of people get confused between the bald eagle and the golden eagle, especially as they have a similar appearance when they are young.

They are both large birds of prey, but there are some important differences between them. 

I have put together this useful guide to help you understand the difference between golden eagles and bald eagles. Keep reading to find out more. 


The first thing to consider is what type of habitats you will find bald eagles and golden eagles in. Golden eagles are found mostly in North America, Europe, Asia, and some parts of North Africa.

They enjoy quite a range of environments including open spaces like plains and deserts, denser areas such as forests, and higher altitudes in mountain ranges and cliffy areas. 

Bald eagles have a smaller range – they can be found in North America, Alaska, Southern Canada, and in parts of Northern Mexico.

Extensive conservation efforts have been required to increase their population across Northern America. They like to live in areas with a lot of tree coverage, but also prefer wetlands.

Their habitats tend to be along the coast, or close to lakes, large rivers and marshes. 


Golden Eagles and Bald Eagles live in different habitats, so it makes sense that they would eat different types of foods. Golden eagles have a diet that is mostly made up of small mammals.

The mammals they eat will depend on which continent they are living on, but could be anything from rabbits and prairie dogs to foxes and deer. They also eat reptiles including turtles. 

Bald eagles live close to the water and prefer to eat fish as much as possible. They will also eat various types of waterfowl.

Bald eagles eat less land mammals than golden eagles, but they are perfectly capable of catching prey like prairie dogs and rabbits. They have also been known to raid trash cans for food. 

What Golden eagles and Bald eagles have in common is that they will both steal prey from other birds, and they will eat carrion (abandoned carcass etc). 


Golden eagles and Bald eagles look very similar in their juvenile stages, which is why a lot of people confuse them with each other, even bird watching enthusiasts.

Most of their feathers are dark brown, with white tips on their wings and tails. It is not until the birds reach sexual maturity that it becomes easier to tell them apart. 

golden eagle appearance

Adult golden eagles have dark brown bodies with a golden brown neck. They have distinctive feathers at the top of their feet that make it look like they are wearing boots.

This is where they get the nickname ‘booted eagle’. Their wings and tail have some white feathers, and their beaks are small and black.

Golden eagles can grow to be 26 to 40 inches long. Their wingspan can be anywhere between 5 feet 11 inches and over 7 feet long. 

bald eagle appearance vs golden eagle appearance

Bald eagles also have dark brown bodies, but their necks are white along with their tails and heads. Their feathers don’t extend as far down their legs as golden eagles.

They also have much larger beaks that are yellow in color. As bald eagles get older, more of their feathers will gradually turn white.

Bald eagles can grow to be 28 to 40 inches long, similar to golden eagles. They also have a similar wingspan, which tends to be between 5 feet 11 inches long and 7 feet 7 inches long. 


There are several aspects of behavior that need to be considered when comparing golden eagles to bald eagles. 

Human Interaction 

Golden eagles and bald eagles vary when it comes to how close they will get to humans. Golden eagles will avoid humans wherever possible.

Bald eagles aren’t particularly bothered by human presence. However, neither bird is likely to approach a human in the wild. 

Eagle Interaction

Both golden eagles and bald eagles will choose the same mating partner for at least several years, some will mate with the same bird for life.

Neither type of bird is particularly sociable – they won’t spend time in groups.

Bald eagles are a bit more tolerant of their fellow eagles than golden eagles, but they are still competitive when it comes to prey and nesting spaces. 

Nest Building 

Both Golden eagles and Bald eagles build large nests out of sticks. Golden eagles tend to build them on cliffs or in tall trees, depending on which type of habitat they are living in.

Cliff areas are preferred, and if they do use a tree it will not be in a dense area.

Due to their aversion to humans, they will try and build their nests as far away from human settlements and popular areas as possible. 

Bald eagles don’t tend to live in mountainous areas so they build their nests in tall trees that are located close to the water. They tend to choose old-growth trees.

You are more likely to spot a bald eagle nest than a golden eagle nest, as they don’t avoid humans as vehemently. Bald eagles build the largest nests out of any bird.

They can measure up to 13 feet wide and over 8 feet deep, and they are very heavy. 


bald eagle in flight

Both golden eagles and bald eagles are very graceful in the air. However, golden eagles spend a lot more time flying than bald eagles.

Many bird enthusiasts consider them to be the best fliers out of all types of eagles and other types of raptor birds.

Golden eagles are also faster than bald eagles, reaching a top speed of 150-200 mph when diving for prey. Bald eagles have a top speed of 100mph. 


Whilst there are some similarities between golden eagles and bald eagles, they differ when it comes to their preferred habitats, diet, and their appearance. 


Is the golden eagle the largest eagle?

The Steller’s Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus) is considered to be the largest eagle in terms of wingspan, with a wingspan that can reach up to 8 ft 2 in (2.5 m). In terms of weight, the Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja) is considered to be one of the heaviest eagle, it can weigh up to 20 lbs (9 kg), also the Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) is considered one of the heaviest eagle, it can weigh up to 14 lbs (6.4 kg).

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