Bald Eagle or Golden Eagle: Explained Complete Difference

Bald Eagle or Golden Eagle

Bald eagles and golden eagles are two popular species of eagles that belong to the Accipitridae family. But both of these birds lie under different groups.

However, many times it becomes difficult to distinguish between juvenile bald eagles and juvenile golden eagles.

It is so because both of these birds look similar at this age. But once they reach adulthood, the differences are visible on their head and tail. 

Adult bald eagles have a white head and tail while adult golden eagles have a dark brown head and tail.

However, this is not the only difference between these two birds. There are many bases on which it becomes easy to differentiate between bald and golden eagle. 

And In this article, I’ve covered all the aspects that you need to know about the Bald and Golden eagle. 

Bald Eagle VS Golden Eagle Comparison Table

BasisBald EagleGolden Eagle 
Size 71-96 cm of average length70-99 cm of average length
Weight3,000-6,300g (3-6.3kg) or (6.6-13.8lb)2,387-6,460g (2.3-6.4 kg) or (5-14lb)
Wingspan168-244 cm185-222 cm
HabitatAreas with lots of trees, and wetlands. They are found in North America. From northern Mexico to southern Canada & AlaskaOpen plains, deserts, forests, mountains, and areas with cliffs. They are found in North America, Asia, Europe, and parts of North Africa. 
Color Patterns Dark brown bodies, white head, neck, and tail. Dark brown bodies, lighter golden-neck, and White marking on the wings and tail
BeakLarge and YellowSmaller and black
NestLarge sticks nest in tall trees near waterLarge sticks nests on cliffs or in tall trees
BehaviorNot bothered by humansAvoid humans 

Size and Shape Of Bald Eagle or Golden Eagle

The size and shape of both the eagles vary to a limited extent. They are almost of the same size which makes it difficult to distinguish between both. 

  • The average length of a golden eagle ranges between 70-99 cm while for a bald eagle it is between 71-96 cm. 
  • However, when it comes to the wingspan of a golden eagle, is between 185-222 cm while it is 168-244 cm for the bald eagle. 
  • The weight of the golden eagle ranges between 2.3-6.4 kg (5-14lb) while it is 3-6.3 kg (6.6-13.8lb) for the bald eagle. 

Bald Eagle or Golden Eagle: Color Patterns and Variations

When it comes to making a comparison between these two birds based on the color patterns, then you will find similarities in the case of their plumage.

Both birds have dark brown plumage with white markings on the tails and wings.

However, in the case of golden eagles, the feathers of their neck appear to be golden-brown. Their white mottling is limited to their underwings and the base of the tail. 

On the other hand, if you compare bald eagles, then they look similar to golden eagles until they’re four or five years of their age.

After gaining sexual maturity, they gain their distinctive white color. The tail feathers of the bald eagles become entirely white during their adulthood. 

However, one distinguishing characteristic between these two birds is their beaks. The beak of a golden eagle looks like a hawk’s beak and stays brown throughout its life.

But when it comes to bald eagles, they also have brown beaks until they reach adulthood.

After reaching adulthood, the beak of the bald eagles turns into a bright yellow or golden color. Even their beaks grow larger than golden eagles and appear to be more hooked. 

The golden and bald eagle also varies based on ankle feathers. The golden eagles grow their feathers all the way to their feet.

This means that they also have feathers on their ankles and their skin is not exposed. But in the case of bald eagles, the feathers are not grown to their feet.

They have bare skin after their ankle as the feathers stop right above their ankles. 

Bald Eagle or Golden Eagle: Behavior

When it comes to the behavior of both of these eagles, then a comparison can be easily made.

Golden eagles are mostly solitary birds which means that they are often seen alone or in a pair during the breeding season.

On the other hand, bald eagles are more social and can tolerate other species of birds. But bald eagles are very competitive with other bald eagles due to which they cannot tolerate them. 

Golden eagles prey on intermediate-sized mammals while bald eagles prey on smaller things. However, when it comes to their behavior toward humans, then both of these birds are different.

Golden eagles usually avoid humans and build their nests and habitat away from humans. On the other hand, bald eagles are unbothered by the presence of humans. 

Bald Eagle or Golden Eagle: Diet

The diet of the golden eagle and bald eagle share several similarities. These eagles can hunt small mammals like rabbits and prairie dogs.

The main difference between their diets lies in their reliance on mammals for sustenance. The golden eagle prefers mammals and carrion.

They eat a variety of mammals including ground squirrels, small deer, and marmots. There is evidence that these eagles pull goats from cliffs to their death and feed on them.

They can also eat reptiles like turtles and occasionally steal from other birds. 

While on the other hand, the diet of the bald eagles doesn’t constitute a large portion of mammals. These eagles primarily feed on fish.

They rely on fish as the primary source of their diet and they tend to live near large bodies of water. But these birds also raid human trash heaps for food. 

Bald Eagle or Golden Eagle: Habitat

The habitats of both golden and bald eagles may overlap but they prefer different habitats. Golden eagles prefer rocky, open plain areas that have plenty of cliffs.

It is said that these birds prefer deserts, areas with thin tree cover, and mountainous regions.

They avoid dense forests and overly developed areas. They can be found in the areas of North America, Asia, parts of North Africa, and Europe. 

While on the other hand, bald eagles prefer areas with lots of trees and wetland areas near large bodies of water. This includes the areas like rivers, lakes, marshes, and seacoasts.

They also prefer heavily forested areas with an abundance of old-growth trees. These can be found in the areas of North America, North Mexico, Alaska, and Southern Canada. 


Making a comparison between two birds is not easy and when things are to be done for golden and bald eyes, then it can be a little more difficult.

Both the birds are of almost similar size and weight but they can be distinguished by their head and tail color.

You can also make a comparison between these two by seeing their preying behavior. Therefore, you can use these points to make an exact comparison between these two birds. 

At last, I hope this article might have helped you in some ways. Thank You For Reading!

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