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Golden Eagles and Eagle Hunting


Mankind has been fascinated by the golden eagle as early as the beginning of recorded history. Most early-recorded cultures regarded the golden eagle with reverence. With its 66 to 102 cm length, 1.8 to 2.34 meters wingspan and powerful foot and sharp talons golden eagles can be trained to be highly effective falconry birds, though their size, strength, and aggressiveness require careful handling to control the risk of injury to the falconer.


The culture in which falconry with golden eagles is prominent today is amongst the Kyrgyz people of the Tien Shan Mountains of southeastern Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. This practice is also culturally prominent in western Mongolia and Xinjiang. There are around 250 active eagle hunters in Bayan-Ölgii Province of Mongolia, and 50 in Kazakhstan. In these cultures, the golden eagle is considered a highly valued working animal that will be used for 15 years or more. Falconers carry their bird on a gloved right hand, usually with a wooden brace to support its considerable weight. In the Tien Shan Mountains, falconry mostly occurs in late fall and early winter. It is possible for up to 30 to 50 foxes to be caught by a single eagle during this season.


The golden eagle is a very large raptor, 66 to 102 centimeters (26 to 40 in) in length. Its wings are broad and the wingspan is 1.8 to 2.34 meters (5 ft 11 inch to 7 ft 8 inch). Golden eagles' wingspan is the fifth largest among living eagle species. Females are larger than males, with a bigger difference in larger subspecies. In the species overall, males average around 3.6 kg (7.9 lb) and females around 5.1 kg (11 lb).


Adults of both sexes have similar plumage and are primarily dark brown, with some grey on the inner wing and tail, and a paler, typically golden colour on the back of the crown and nape that gives the species its common name. Unlike other Aquila species, where the tarsal feathers are typically similar in colour to the rest of the plumage, the tarsal feathers of golden eagles tend to be paler, ranging from light golden to white. In addition, some full-grown birds (especially in North America) have white "epaulettes" on the upper part of each scapular feather tract. The bill is dark at the tip, fading to a lighter horn colour, with a yellow cere. Like many accipitrids, the bare portion of the feet is yellow.


Usually found alone or in pairs, Golden Eagles typically soar or glide with wings lifted into a slight “V” and the wingtip feathers spread like fingers. They capture prey on or near the ground, locating it by soaring, flying low over the ground, or hunting from a perch. Golden Eagles favor partially or completely open country, especially around mountains, hills, and cliffs. They use a variety of habitats ranging from arctic to desert, including tundra, shrublands, grasslands, coniferous forests, farmland, and areas along rivers and streams.

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