As a symbol of freedom and king of the skies, between 1,200 and1,300 golden eagle breeding pairs are found in the Alps, of which some 260-360 in Austria. In Ötztal it breeds e.g. in Windachtal Valley. The golden eagle requires open to semi-open landscapes for hunting medium-sized prey such as marmots or alpine hare. It builds its aerie on cliffs so it can breed undisturbed.
The raptor can be identified in flight especially by its long, relatively slim wings, which narrow at the wing roots. When gliding in the air, it mostly keeps its primary feathers widely spread, bending its wings V-shaped. While adult animals are plain dark brown with a golden yellow area in the neck, the plumage of the young birds usually still features many white spots. The golden eagle female is bigger and heavier than the male. The female weighs about 5 kg, the male only about 3.7 kg. Its wingspan is also significantly larger than that of the male at up to 230 cm. Golden eagle couples remain together for life.
With flight speeds of up to 125 km/h, the golden eagle is perfectly adapted to hunting in the mountains. In order to clearly see the movements of prey, the eye of the eagle needs to have high resolving power. The eye of the golden eagle can resolve up to 150 single images per second, that of the human only some 20-25 images. The movements of a marmot are seen clearly even at a distance of up to 3 km.
Like the ibex, the golden eagle at one stage also almost disappeared in the Alps as a result of hunting. Only in 1952 was the raptor placed under protection. Even though the population has recovered again since then, the golden eagle is still regarded as potentially endangered.