Animal and Plant of the Month
Animal of the Month
Plant of the Month

Golden Eagle
Aquila chryseitos

White Sage
Krascheninnikovia lanata


Our largest raptor at PCC, the golden eagle is a bird of the prairie. It gets its name from the golden feathers on its head and nape of the neck. It is not as easy to identify as the adult bald eagle because its golden head is not as obvious as the white of the bald eagle.

In flight it can be confused with dark morphs of our hawks, until you can judge its size. I once saw at PCC from a distance what I thought to be a red-tailed hawk being harassed by a blackbird. It turned out to be a golden eagle being harassed by a red-tailed hawk. That's the size difference.

Golden eagles eat prairie dogs, rodents, snakes, rabbits, coyote pups, pronghorn fawns, and even adult pronghorns. I've heard from two reliable sources instances of golden eagles taking down adult pronghorns. In the first case, several eagles dove in succession on an adult, knocking it to the ground and finally subduing in. In the other case, the eagle landed on the neck of the pronghorn, held on with one foot and raked the side of the pronghorn with its talons until it reached the lung.

These pictures were taken recently at PCC and show a juvenile, first year golden eagle. It probably hunts at PCC after being born further out on the prairie. It's parents probably chased it from their nesting grounds.


Look for:

  • A shrub, up to 3 feet tall. with whitish wooly (silvery white appearance) branches; a cool season plant flowering April to September
  • Flowers are small, in spikes; male and female flowers are on separate plants
  • Leaves are like pine needles, whorled, thick, up to an inch and a half long with curled margins


Ecological and Human interest:
    • Grows on sandy plains and alkali flats
    • Winterfat is good forage for sheep, pronghorn, elk, mule deer and many small mammals and birds; it is most valued as winter forage
    • Blackfoot Indians soaked the leaves in warm water to make a hair wash; other Indians used an extract from the leaves to treat fevers



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