nature, eagle, golden eagle, mexico, state bird

One of the most impressive birds in North America is the Golden Eagle. It is found as far north as Alaska and as far south as Mexico, taking its place as one of Mexico’s official symbols. In fact, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “The Golden Eagle is the most common official national animal in the world – it’s the emblem of Albania, Germany, Austria, Mexico, and Kazakhstan.”

The bird is massive. Their wingspans can reach nearly 90 inches, and they have been known to prey on cranes and livestock. The oldest known Golden Eagle was over 30 years old, and as a species they prefer open and semi-open landscapes.

Golden Eagles have a global breeding population of around 300,000 birds, 3% of which spend at least part of the year in Mexico. Though their populations appear stable, their future health is not without risk. Unfortunately,  “humans are still Golden Eagles’ greatest threat: it’s estimated that more than 70 percent of recorded Golden Eagle deaths are attributable to human impact, either intentional or inadvertent.” Urbanization, poisoning, and collisions with vehicles and wind turbines are all causes for concern for this species.

While it is easy to see why so many nations want such a powerful bird as one of their symbols, the Mexican national bird designation is not without controversy. While a Golden Eagle does appear on Mexico’s flag, if you ask many citizens they will tell you that the Crested Caracara is actually the country’s “official” bird. In fact, the caracara has been called the “Mexican Eagle.” In addition,”some believe it is the Crested Caracara depicted on the ancient Aztec pictogram that appears on Mexico’s flag.”

crested caracara, bird, nature, mexico

Crested Caracara

Crested Caracaras, though they often associate with vultures, are actually part of the falcon family. They also prefer open country as habitat, and feed on insects, mammals, birds, fish, and carrion. In my opinion, the caracara is a much  more interesting choice for Mexico’s national bird; at the very least, it would be a unique bird symbol!




Written by Erika Zambello
Erika Zambello is a National Geographic Young Explorer who grew up in Maine, inspiring a deep interest in nature at an early age. She fell in love with birding after receiving a Sibley field guide for Christmas during her senior year in college, and has birded across the eastern seaboard and internationally ever since. To inspire others to protect birds and the environment, she has blogged for the Conservation Fund, Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Triangle Land Conservancy, and Duke University, and is writing a birding guide to Northern New England for Wilderness Adventures Press. She has founded, and is currently living along the Emerald Coast in Florida's Panhandle. You can check out her exploration site or follow her on Instragram.