LIKE decent ratepayers, I deplore all birds of prey, with their cruel faces and stupid wee heids.

However, I will not let such factual prejudice get in the way of the following scientific paper.

Recently, I watched a YouTube video about a lovely crow that had been cared for by humans as a bairn. It grew up to love the people and their dog and cat, playing joyfully with them all. 

Until it was killed by a bird of prey. They have taken small, innocent, vegetarian birds out of my garden.

But, as I say, my detestation of these empyrean psychopaths will not influence the following objective analysis of one species of these aerial swine, which swan aboot the sky as if they own the place. 

Apologies for the mixed creature similes. What am I like, eh?

So, the golden eagle. Icon of Scotland? As so often, it’s far from unique to us but is often described as “iconic”, like fish suppers or neds swigging Buckie. 

In 2013, RSPB Scotland petitioned the Scottish Parliament to have the golden eagle designated a national symbol, describing the creature as “charismatic”. Aye, like Hitler was “charismatic”.

Indeed, bravely opposing the move, Tory MSP Jackson Carlaw associated the golden eagle with the Nazis and their forebears, the Romans, saying: “In the lifetime of many people in this country it was the last thing their relatives saw as they were marched to their deaths.”

He said the golden eagle was a “symbol of imperial authority”, which was wrong for “a democratic nation like Scotland”. He suggested the “tenacious” robin as a better symbol. Well played, sir.

We should say golden eagles themselves have faced persecution – by humans, Earth’s most godawful species. Across Europe, the birds were blootered. 

Land use changes created more problems, and the species became extinct over large tracts of central Europe in the 19th century.

Flying shame 
In the UK, the population declined in the 18th century because of killing by sheep farmers, and in the 19th century at the never-pleasant hands of gamekeepers. The golden eagle was exterminated in England and Wales by 1850, and in Ireland by 1912.

Somehow, it clung on in Scotland, among the more remote mountains and glens but, even today, they’re still allegedly persecuted by the nutters who operate grouse moors. Today, there are around 500 breeding pairs in the UK, pretty much all in Scotland’s Highlands and Islands, with a handful in south-west Scotland and the north of Ireland, and one pair in yonder Lake District.

The eagles in turn persecute rabbits, hares, squirrels, snakes, grouse, ptarmigan, and occasionally gulls, owls and falcons. Badgers, lambs and human babies are also available: well, the last-named not so much. 

But it’s thought they can take young deer and, in some mad countries, they were supposedly trained to hunt wolves. Basically, they have no morals at all. 

They do not give, as it were, a flying one.

It’s fair to say they take a lot of carrion, and the maximum weight they can lift is 10lbs, making it impossible for them to carry off large animals.

Golden eagles are sometimes blootered by other predators, such as the white-tailed eagle or, in other countries, wolverines, snow leopards, cougars and bears. Yo, intae thum! 

On the sharp end
ONE account records a golden eagle dying from the quills of a North American porcupine it was trying to slaughter. Ha-ha!

On Rum, cases are recounted of red deer trampling golden eagles to death, possibly after they tried to kill a fawn. A great blue heron put up such a fight that both birds died from their wounds. One golden eagle died after a fulmar deployed its famous defence of spewing an oily mess at its attacker.

However, most deaths from fighting probably occur at the talons of other golden eagles competing for girlfriends and territory.

Golden eagles usually mate for life, bagging off after a courtship display in which the male picks up a piece of rock or small stick and drops it before plunging into a steep dive and catching it in mid-air. 

It’s their equivalent of us doing a John Travolta dance doon the disco. 

As with humans, copulation normally lasts 10 to 20 seconds, leaving plenty of time to watch Match of the Day afterwards.

As you’ve probably gathered, golden eagles are big lads, generally around 30 to 40 inches from beak to a***, with a wingspan of about 80 inches. 

They weigh maybe 10lbs and, as with humans in Scotland, females are larger than males. 
Though their average lifespan is 23 years, the oldest known wild one lived in Sweden for 32 years. 

The longest-lived captive specimen survived to 46.

Being vaguely magnificent, at least compared to pigeons, you’d think golden eagles would be easy to identify as they glide aboot. 

But, distantly, they can be confused with smaller buzzards, or the white-tailed eagle, which is actually bigger. Adults are mainly dark brown, with a golden heid and neck (don’t quote me on this, Dr Watson, but I think that might account for the name). 

Unlike buzzards, which stoat across the sky shouting “Aye” every five minutes in a resigned voice, golden eagles are often silent. 

When they do open their gubs, the sound is described as “quite pathetic” and “puppy-like”, a bit like those massive blokes with squeaky voices that you sometimes encounter.

The Herald:

Cliff hangers
THEIR Sunday name is Aquila chrysaetos and, like all eagles, they belong to the family Accipitridae (prats). Golden eagles typically build several eyries, preferably on cliffs, and use them alternately for several years.

Males and females build the nest together, using branches, twigs and heather, and lining it with grass and rushes. They add to the eyrie each year.

The biggest recorded was 15ft thick, and had been used by generations for 45 years.

Golden eagles usually lay two eggs, but the second chick has only a 20% chance of surviving. Young birds stay in their parents’ territory until early winter, scrounging for as long as they can, being moody and refusing to do chores.

It says here that, though usually solitary outside breeding pairs, golden eagles may cuddle up together in really cold weather, at least in Idaho, where the phenomenon was observed en masse. 

Aw, ain’t that sweet? Big swine that they are.