Golden eagles are opportunistic predators and eat many kinds of animals, but mainly eat small mammals such as rabbits, hares and ground squirrels, as well as various types of birds. They also feed on ungulates such as sheep and goats, small carnivores such as foxes, and reptiles.
Golden eagles inhabit many areas in the northern hemisphere, and the local availability of prey species impacts their diet. Rabbits, hares, squirrels and other small mammals, such as marmots and prairie dogs, compose over 40 percent of their diet. Sometimes, they also feed on smaller mammals like rats, mice, lemmings and gerbils. Among carnivores, golden eagles most often hunt foxes, and they also sometimes eat weasels, martens, cats, otters and badgers. Birds commonly consumed by golden eagles include grouse, pheasants, ptarmigans, partridges, pigeons and geese.
Golden eagles usually hunt the young of ungulates like deer, sheep and goats because they are unable to carry away large prey. However, they have been known to fly low, grip the backs or necks of larger ungulates, sustain the hold until the larger mammals collapse and feed on the spot. The most common reptiles consumed are various species of snakes, but golden eagles also feed on large lizards. When golden eagles hunt tortoises, they fly 60 to 70 feet above the ground and drop the tortoises, hoping to shatter their shells. In some areas, golden eagles feed on salmon, trout, pike and other fish.