Top 5 Tips to Spot Golden Eagles in Scotland
Posted on Jul 28, 2014 by Jonathan Willet
These iconic birds are one of Scotland’s Big 5 animals, as chosen by the people!
Those fortunate enough to see them can’t help but be moved by their sheer power and grace. Although numbers are growing they are still relatively rare so here are some tips on spotting Golden Eagles in Scotland from Wilderness expert, Jonathan Willet.
1. Where should I go to spot the Golden Eagle?
Get yourself to an island: Harris, Mull, Rum and Skye are all very reliable for Golden Eagles (and Sea Eagles). On the mainland quiet glens with dead end roads are often good places to look but Golden Eagles can even be spotted on the A9. Stop at the Drumochter Pass and scan round – I saw two there this winter.
2. Where should I focus my gaze?
Scan the skyline between the hilltops and ridges, keep looking all around you.
3. How long will it take to spot one?
Find a comfortable spot and spend at least 30 minutes looking. You don’t have to search all the time but do scan every few minutes. Enjoy the peace and quiet and the other wildlife you will see.
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4. How can I tell it’s definitely an Eagle?
Do some research. I suggest having a look at this RSPB leaflet so you can tell a ‘Tourist Eagle’ (the Buzzard) from a real one.
- Eagles aren’t very “flappy” – there will be occasional wingbeats but very few. Buzzards, on the other hand, tend to: flap, flap, glide.
- Buzzards also hold their wings slightly forward and slightly raised at the tips.
- Golden Eagles have much longer wings in proportion to their bodies than a Buzzard and their primary (fingertip) feathers are more obvious
- When it’s windy Eagles don’t get buffeted as much as the smaller Buzzard.
- If you have nothing to compare a bird with it’s hard to tell but the Golden eagle is nearly twice the size of the Buzzard.
5. How do I identify different Eagles?
What kind of Eagle? If you see an Eagle on the coast between Aberdeen and Edinburgh, I am 99% confident it will be a Sea Eagle from the release project in Fife.
Inland you get mainly Golden Eagles and the occasional wandering immature Sea Eagle. Golden Eagles have “thinner” wings and as adults are a warm brown colour with a lighter golden-brown neck, hence the name. Immature Golden Eagles have white tails with a black band at the end and white patches on the top and underside of their wings.
On the west coast you’ll see both Golden and Sea Eagles. Sea Eagles are slightly bigger with broader wings which is why they get the nick name flying barn doors. As adults they have pale heads and white tails – if it is sunny you really notice that.
Scotland is home to a wide variety of incredible wildlife. On our Luxury Walking in Sutherland you can spot dolphins in the Moray Firth or marvel at the sight of eagles in the landscape of Knoydart – known as Scotland’s last wilderness.
- We love to explore Scotland’s abundant and diverse wildlife so for more articles like this visit our wildlife archive page.
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