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Breeding Biology

The best time to see eagles is in the late winter and early spring. Prior to egg laying pairs can be seen patrolling their home range and displaying along its boundaries on bright days from mid winter on. Nest building can start as early as January and February. At this time of the year, you have the chance of spotting two active eagles, during a limited amount of daylight in the short winter days, when they themselves are deliberately more conspicuous in order to advertise their presence to other eagles. From late March till late July, hopefully one bird will be continuously out of sight attending the nest. Also during the long summer days, eagles can be active quite early in the day, when birdwatchers are inactive.

Golden Eagles can live 25-30 years and take up to 5 years to mature and breed. They normally lay 1-2 eggs. Of the five Irish clutches laid to date their have been 4 clutches of two eggs and one single egg clutch. The eggs hatch after approx 42 days per egg. The laying interval between eggs is 3-5 days (Hardey et al 2006). This staggered hatching is a deliberate behaviour in most birds of prey, and indeed many predatory mammals, so that if there is a shortage of food the strongest and oldest young will survive and fledge.

The chicks spend around 70 days in the nest, but this can be longer if it has developed more slowly due to a shortage of live prey brought to the nest.