While Alaska supports a population of bald eagles greater than that in all of the other states combined, the mountainous regions of Denali, especially north of the Alaska Range, are much better suited to golden eagles. Bald eagles occur in Denali mainly on the south side of the Alaska Range near lakes and rivers, but golden eagles outnumber bald eagles park-wide by 70%.
The golden eagles that breed and raise their young in Denali are migratory. Their annual journeys span eastern Alaska, western Canada, the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains and northern Mexico. Golden eagles spend mid-March to late September in Denali where territorial pairs reunite, breed, and raise their young. While traditional nesting areas are used for many years, Denali's scientists do not know whether or not the same pairs remain together over their lifetime and use the same nesting area each season.
Golden eagles in Denali usually build their nests on cliffs or rock outcroppings, although a few nests are in trees. Reproduction is influenced by the abundance of prey during the early spring breeding season. Many more pairs of eagles lay eggs and raise young in years when springtime populations of snowshoe hare and willow ptarmigan are abundant than when these important prey species are scarce.
Denali is home to the longest running golden eagle ecology study at high latitudes in North America. Results from this long-term monitoring program are shedding new light on the natural history of these magnificent predatory birds.