Catching up with Legacy

I have been spending so much time checking on the arrival of Ospreys both here and in the United Kingdom, that some of my favourite eaglets and chicks on nests have grown – seemingly overnight – to be ‘super size’. I am feeling a little guilty for neglecting them for the past few days as they have brought such joy to my life and, I hope, yours.

Legacy hatched on 8 February. Do you remember when she was just a ball of fluff? In the image below she is a wee one with soft grey down and only a few pinfeathers starting to come through. She is getting ready for a ‘ps’. It is remarkable how all of the nestlings know to send their bathroom out and off of the nest. Her little head is touching the bottom of the nest bowl and she is balancing herself on the tips of her wings in order to elevate her little bottom. No one taught her, not one of her parents showed her how to do this. Oh, if it had been so easy potty training humans!

Today it was grey and rainy with a bit of wind. There has been heavy rain and tornado watches in the area for several days now. The birds are a bit wet. Here is Legacy getting ready to do a ‘ps’ today. She is 42 days old. And she kept testing the edge of the nest with her feet when she backed up. I feared she was going to fall off!

Legacy is now mantling food when the parents bring it to the nest and she is self-feeding. In the image below you can see the parents looking on while Legacy mantles the food – she spreads her wings far to each side and lowers her body of the food in a stance that doesn’t allow others to get to the prey. This is a good lesson for Legacy. She will need this to survive in the wild.

Legacy is learning to hold the prey down with her feet and talons so that it is secure and she can tear off bites with her sharp beak.

Legacy overcame Avian Pox and now she spends a lot of time doing wing exercises and hopping about the nest. Eggie and Pinecone were her good buddies. Her dad, Samson, buried Eggie in the nest last week when Legacy was self-feeding. Then he covered it with some Spanish Moss probably hoping that Legacy would not dig it out. Pinecone is still around! Legacy learned some valuable lessons with ‘Eggie’. She learned how to brood, how to aerate the nest, and roll the egg as well as incubating it. She is going to be a great mom.

Legacy poses with her beautiful mother, Gabrielle. The little one has the most incredible deep black with a hint of brown-red in her plumage. And that little bit of a tail in the first image is now growing nicely. She will need to have a long tail to help her fledge. Isn’t she stunning? Gabby and Samson make beautiful babies!

And here Legacy is kissy-kissy with mom.

It has been such a pleasure to watch this little one grow up. Legacy overcame some early eye irritation issues, then the Avian Pox, and has grown into this beautiful girl. OK. I will always believe Legacy is going to be a big girl like Gabby. Can’t say why, just one of those feelings. I hope we find out one day.

Samson and Gabrielle have done an amazing job teaching her and getting her ready for the day she will leave the nest and be on her own. Fledging is 10-14 weeks. It is hard to believe that we are halfway there!

I will leave you with an image of another nest. It is pip watch at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Bald Eagle nest. This is the nest with the young 4 year old father. Hoping for the best!

And the bouquet today goes to Clyde, the Great Horned Owl and mate of Bonnie. It has been cold and raining in Kansas and still in the last hour – just one hour – has brought in four prey items for Bonnie, Tiger, and Lily. The rabbit and the garter snake are in the pantry but Bonnie is trying to keep the wee ones dry – and it is not easy – so they are having mice and vole for snacks. It looks like it is a prey rich area for the couple and their owlets.

Bonnie and Clyde are wet but the little ones are dry. Clyde brought in four prey items. He is giving Bonnie a mouse in this delivery.

The beef goes once again to Jack at the Achieva Osprey Nest. Tiny Tot got some tiny bites of food in the last of three deliveries. The two eldest have shut him out of eating. Diane the mom has fished herself today when food did not come in. It is a stressful nest to watch.

Thank you so much for joining me today as we caught up with Legacy. And thank you to the NEFL Eagle Cam and the AEF for their streaming cam where I grabbed these images.

N24 is really improving

This is just a really quick update. The sun is quickly setting over the NEFL Eagle Cam. Little N24 is growing and growing and eating and eating. We are now in the official stage of accelerated growth. Which also means less but bigger meals and very large crops. You can see that N24 went to bed with quite a large one today.

As we had all hoped, it ‘appears’ (I am using that word cautiously) that the lesions on the left side of its face, on the lower part of the beak/mouth are drying. If this is the case, this is very good news. This is day 12 after the then suspected Avian Pox was noticed, later confirmed. Specialists say that the lesions can persist from 1-4 weeks.

Knock on wood. It would appear that N24 had a very mild case of AP. It will be immune for the rest of its life. That is the good news, too. The lesions will continue to dry and will fall off. There appears to be no damage to the beak at all.

Everyone is relieved and just very, very happy. If this beautiful eagle family could, I am certain that they would thank you for your outpourings and your positive thoughts.

Gabby was doing some nestorations while N24 slept with its huge crop. @NEFL Eagle Cam and AEF
4 March 2021. N24 sitting on his friend, Eggbert, with a full crop @NEFL Eagle Cam and AEF
Pin feathers and drying lesions. N24 sleeps by Eggbert. 4 March 2021. @NEFL Eagle Cam and AEF
N24’s AP lesions ‘appear’ to be drying. @NEFL Eagle Cam and AEF

N24 looks so much better!

Just some background before breaking into the good news.

Avian Pox (AP) is a slow-developing bird disease caused by a virus
belonging to a subgroup of poxviruses, the Avipoxvirus. There is no cure. AP is an international problem for every species of bird. One of the first ways of noticing that a bird has AP is the appearance of lesions on the non-feathered areas such as the face, feet, mouth and beak area, as well as the upper respiratory tract. Sometimes these lesions resemble warts and other times they look like blisters. Birds catch AP from mosquitoes, by eating infected prey, or being in contact with other birds or surfaces contaminated by AP. Researchers believe that the disease ranges from mild to severe but that it is rarely fatal (Wrobel et al. 2016). Birds are more likely to die if the virus impacts its respiratory tract. Additionally, secondary infections can be fatal. The USFWS found that the number of cases occurs less frequently in dry climates while the highest number are in hot and humid climates such as Florida and Louisiana. Those climatic conditions are perfect environments for mosquitoes.

Lesion on N24’s mouth/left beak area. 27 February 2021. @AEF and Audubon NEFL Eagle cam
2 March 2021. @AEF and Audubon NEFL Eagle cam

One of the biggest issues is that there has not been a large study of Avian Pox in the Bald Eagle population. The study conducted by Wrobel et al found that the frequency of raptors having Avian Pox is far greater than the outward signs such as lesions would suggest. Of the 142 raptor specimens in their research project, ten were Bald Eagles. Of those, 30% had antibodies related to Avian Pox. The researchers admit that their study, which focused on urban and suburban raptors admitted to a Central Illinois clinic, had more small raptors such as Kestrels and Barred Owls. What they did learn is that 50% of all of the raptors had antibodies indicating that they had, at one time, Avian Pox or Conjunctivitis (effects the eyes such as we have seen on SWFL E17 and E18). That is a far higher amount than the scientists expected and their results indicate that the number of raptors exposed to either or both AP and Conjunctivitis is far more prevalent than anticipated. The researchers said that the free living or wild birds in the study indicate that most raptors are able to ‘mount a full adaptive immune response against these pathogens’ (291). This, of course, is excellent news for our raptors if it is correct.

As you are aware, if you have been reading my column or following the NEFL Eagle Nest, the eaglet N24 was observed by individuals of the American Eagle Federation to have Avian Pox on 20 February. On 27 February, the lesions were noticed by many people. Some posted videos expressing concern on YouTube such as Lady Hawk. I mounted a campaign in support of N24 in case an intervention became absolutely necessary. Neither Avian Pox or Conjunctivitis are caused directly by humans. The eaglets at the SWFL Nest, E17 and E18, had Conjunctivitis and were treated by CROW. Their eyes fully healed and they were returned to the nest. It was hoped that little N24 could receive similar help should it respiratory system become compromised.

The good news today, 2 March 2021, is that N24 has a very good appetite. N24 cast a pellet at 6:32 am. It is now 6:40 pm on the nest. There have been at least two feedings. (Pantry was bare til first feeding) The first was around 10:36. Samson brought a fish and started feeding N24. Gabby took over at 10:50 with Samson leaving and returning with another fish. The parents have been very attentive to the little one over the past few days. And, yes, of course. They knew he was sick! All parents know when their kids are not feeling well.

I want some more fish! @AEF and Audubon NEFL Eagle cam

The second feeding began around 4:21pm.

N24 devouring the fish. @AEF and Audubon NEFL Eagle cam
More, faster! @AEF and Audubon NEFL Eagle cam

A third feeding began around 5:46. A few minutes earlier Gabby offered fish but N24 did not appear interested in getting out of the egg cup to eat. He is leaning on ‘the egg’. Around 5:47 Gabby begins feeding the eaglet stretching to reach it in the nest. N24 has a large crop.

I can see no further lesions on N24’s face or mouth area. In fact, it appears that the lesion on the left of the face is reduced. Can you see me jumping up and down?

Mom, Can I incubate the egg while I eat? @AEF and Audubon NEFL Eagle cam
Thanks, Mom! My tummy is full! @AEF and Audubon NEFL Eagle cam
It isn’t a close up image but any lesion on the left side of the mouth appears to be much smaller or gone altogether. @AEF and Audubon NEFL Eagle cam

I am not a vet or a wildlife rehabber. Every research paper that I can find on AP indicates that the lesions can persist for 1-4 weeks. It has been ten days since the first lesions were noticed. I am hopeful that N24’s immune system is really working to heal this lovely ‘cutie pie’ whose permanent name will be Uno, Scout, Kendi, Storm, Journey, or Legacy. Voting for AEF members ends on March 5.

Just to give you a laugh and to thank you for joining me today, ‘the egg’ became quite an amusement today. N24 leaned on it for a feeding, brooded it in the nest while eating, and even Gabby wasn’t sure what to do with it all the time.

References:

E. Wrobel et al, ‘Seroprevalence of Avian Pox and Mycoplasma Gallisepticum in Raptors in Central Illinois’, The Journal of Raptor Research 50 (3): 289-294.

Field Guide to Wildlife Diseases: General Field Procedure and Disease of Migratory Birds, US Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Resource Publication 167 (1987): 135-141.

Quick Check in: N24 and KNF

As you are aware, there is concern for little N24 because it has Avian Pox. This was noted on the 20th of February by the American Eagle Federation and reported by them on 28 February. Others had seen the lesions on the face and talons of N24. To be clear, there is no cure for Avian Pox. The symptoms can range from mild to severe, the worst causing death. AP affects all birds, not just eagles. Many overcome the disease to live normal lives. Some, however, die because of secondary infections or compromises after the disease to their ability to eat or hunt prey. It is absolutely unclear how severe this disease will be for the little eaglet in the NE Florida nest, N24. It is now 23 days old. It is approximately 27 degrees at The Hamlet, hot and humid. In another posting called N24 Needs Your Help there is information on who to contact if you are concerned. At least one eagle on a streaming cam has had Avian Pox and an intervention took place. There is a misunderstanding that the nest in question was a research nest. The suggestion is only for an intervention if absolutely necessary. In nest with its parents is the best place for N24.

N24 had a reasonably good breakfast and was, this afternoon, playing with a small piece of food on the nest. It is extremely windy. Both Gabby and N24 are waiting for a food delivery.

N24 having breakfast 1 March 2021. @AEF and Audubon Society
N24 playing with an old piece of food. 1 March 2021. @AEF and Audubon Society
N24 with Gabby. 1 March 2021. @AEF and Audubon Society

N24 ate well at 1:40 pm nest time.

1 March 2021. 1:40 pm. N24 eating well. @AEF and Audubon Society

At 4pm the lesion on the left side of the beak appears larger. It is hot and N24 is panting. Awaiting food delivery at 4pm.

It is pitching down rain at the KNF nest in central Lousiana today. That mother is doing an exceptional job to keep that little one dry. The little eaglet hatched on 23 February 2021. It is six days old today. The first time mother and the little one are getting much better at feeding and eating.

Having breakfast at the KNF nest before the rains start. Let’s hope the rain stops so the little one can have a nice late lunch!

Thank you for doing this quick check in on these two nests. Everyone send positive thoughts to little cutie pie, N24 so that he can heal quickly. We all want him back to his healthy self playing with the pinecone and sitting on ‘his egg’.

Is anything the matter with N24, our little cutie pie?

N24 was born on 8 February 2021 at the NE Florida Eagle Nest in St Augustine. He is three weeks old today.

N24’s parents are Samson and Gabrielle. We know that Samson was born on this same nest on 23 December 2013, the son of Romeo and Juliet. Samson fledged on 22 April 2014 when he was 120 days old. Four years later, there was a tragedy at the nest. Samson’s mother was injured by an intruder just days before her eggs were to hatch. She left the area and never returned. Romeo was left to do the work of both the mother and the father. That meant that he not only had to protect the nest but he also had to do the hunting and the feeding. One of the eggs hatched and while Romeo was getting food, the tiny eaglet was taken by a rival female. Forlorn, Romeo left the nest never to return. In 2018 Samson came and took control of the nest and its territory eventually bonding with Gabrielle (Gabby). There is no knowledge of Gabby before she appeared at the nest.

Samson with N24 when he was 12 days old. 20 February 2021.

There were originally two eggs in the 2021 clutch of Gabby and Samson but one was unviable. Gabby still incubates the egg on occasion but this is becoming less frequent. Meanwhile, N24 has discovered that ‘the egg’ makes an excellent stool to sit on.

N24 sitting on the egg. 24 February 2021.

N24 is meeting all of its milestones, growing big and strong. He is adorable. This little one was crawling up to the pantry when it was five days old. He is strong and curious. He plays with the materials on the nest picking them up and doing nestorations like his parents.

Looking beyond the nest. 28 February 2021.

And then on 27 February, one of the camera operators noticed something wrong. There appears to be a sore or a blister on the bottom of the beak on the left side and another on the top of the beak on the right where the cere begins.

28 February 2021

You can see it if you look carefully. The cam operators are able to zoom in to check on any concerns.

27 February 2021

The image below was taken at 4:59 today. You will first notice that N24 has a very large crop. He is eating well and his ps is normal.

4:59 pm 28 February 2021.

If you look at the area of the beak that was raised and red on the 27th, it appears to have changed.

Below is an image taken at 2:08 am on 29 February. N24 is awake and just did a ps and is looking around.

2:08 am N24 is alert.

I am not a veterinarian nor am I a wildlife rehabber and will not even speculate, for a second, if this is something minor or serious. However, the American Eagle Federation (AEF) is keeping a very close eye on N24. There are very strict rules for an intervention and it is a very complicated process involving permits from the United States Fish and Wildlife Services. Here is a chart provided by the AEF showing the process:

Let us all hope that our little cutie pie, N24, sleeping with its pinecone and the egg that would have been its sibling, N25, is just fine in the next couple of days and requires no intervention at all. The family is doing so well and it is such a joy to watch them in their every day activities.

12 days old.

Thank you for joining me. Please send positive wishes over to little NE24. He will be three weeks old tomorrow and we want him (or her) to have a long and healthy life.

Thank you to the American Eagle Foundation for the streaming cam at the NEFL Bald Eagle site. I obtained my scaps from their streaming footage.

What’s happening in Bird World?

Today is a bit of a catch up in Bird World. Lots of things are happening so hopefully you will enjoy some very funny moments, a bit of worry, and a celebration. Eggs are being laid all over North America including the nest at the Surrey Reserve part of the Hancock Wildlife Foundation in British Columbia. That happened on 24 February at 4:02 pm. More intruders everywhere. One of the Bald Eagles at the Hays Pittsburg nest was knocked off the nest by a Great Horned Owl on the 24th. This is the first time ever for such an attack at this nest. Sounds familiar? M15 and Harriet remain on full alert at night because of the GHOW in their Fort Myers, Florida territory.

The new mother and the recently hatched eaglet in the KNF nest in the central area of Louisiana seem to be gathering some momentum about feeding and eating. It is still not perfect with the eagle not understanding that it needs to feed its chick many small bites but, luckily the little one grabbed on to a big bite and ate it. Just ate it this morning as it had done yesterday. It was one of those hold your breath moments when you wished that piece of fish down that little one’s throat. That big piece was probably worth ten or more small ones. Yippee. The poor little thing needs its’ face wiped. I don’t think this mother would win a darts game, at least, not yet.

But notice. They now have the mechanics. Mom is sideways and the little one takes its beak at a ninety-degree angle. They are getting there.

Perfect!

It’s noon on the 26th and the little one ‘looks’ better. The mom has the size of the pieces of fish down (most of the time) but the chick, for some reason, doesn’t seem to get to open its beak wide and grab the fish yet.

Getting better but still not fully there.

It’s actually very frustrating watching. Meanwhile, Dad has come in to check on the pantry. It doesn’t take many bites to keep these tiny little ones going but they do need several pieces of fish many times a day. It’s not like E17 and E18 (below) that now have fewer but heartier meals a day during their rapid growth phase. Fingers crossed! It has to be difficult being a first time mom. Humans, normally, have lots of help but this young eagle is all on her own. Most of the time it works out but this year, at least one first time Eagle mom, didn’t know what to do when her day old chick got out of the egg cup while she was incubating the second egg. And it all turned quickly into a tragedy as she picked the baby up with her beak. What option did she have? None other than to wait and it was during the Polar Vortex and there was snow on the ground. The father who was standing at the end of the nest was no help. Sadly, the second egg proved to be not viable for the Berry College Eagle Nest. We will hope this young mother does better next year. Or maybe she will try for a second clutch this year!

Dad checking on the pantry in the Kisatchie National Forest Bald Eagle nest

Elsewhere, other Bald Eagle parents are filling their eaglets up to the top – making sure that they go into a food coma and don’t fight with one another.

At the SWFL nest, E18 looked like he is going to try out for the role of Hulk in the next movie. Honestly, I have never seen a crop this full. That looks very uncomfortable but he doesn’t seem to mind. These two are literally growing in their sleep and almost overnight, many of E18’s feathers turned dark.

I’m bigger than you are!

It is hot in Fort Meyers, 28 degrees C and everyone is trying to stay cool. Harriet tries to be a mombrella but E17 and E18 are getting really big.

Too big!

The Little one on the NEFL Bald Eagle nest is really starting to change. Notice those dark feathers coming in. But the sweetest thing is that this little one has finally found a good use for ‘that’ egg.

Now this is a perfect place to sit and rest. N24 sits on THE egg.

‘Little’ N24 looks so tiny sitting on that egg but he is too big to fit under Gabby anymore. He cuddles up close trying to stay in the shade as the temperatures begin to rise in St Augustine. Samson has filled the pantry and both him and Gabby have kept any intruders away from the nest.

Awwww. Poor Gabby still trying to incubate THE egg.

As the sun sets, Samson gets into position to keep watch during the night.

Samson is a great dad.

The old Warrior Eagle with the beak and leg injury is doing really well and will have another round of Chelation Therapy. Then he will go outside in the aviary spaces to build up his muscles. The vets and rehabbers will then be able to better assess his future. What an amazing recovery.

Improving every day. Photo credit: A Place of Hope FB.

More and more eagles are winding up in care because of lead poisoning. It is not just an issue for the US but also for Canada. This week alone five Bald Eagles have been treated in British Columbia for various levels of toxic lead poisoning. Wherever there is fishing and hunting this will be a problem until the type of fishing and hunting equipment is changed. That should mean that every state and province should outlaw the use of lead.

Solly, the Port Lincoln Osprey, looked like she was heading home to Port Lincoln and the barge but now seems to have changed her mind. She roosts in Eba Anchorage at night flying to Perlubie Wednesday to fish and today, at 159 days old, she has gone farther north to Haslam. There are a lot of people wishing Solly would return to the natal nest so they could have a look at her, she doesn’t seem to be interested. Let us all hope that she finds an amazing territory of her own with lots of fish and she prospers, finds a mate, and is that awesome female Osprey mom that we know she can be.

Solly is on the move. Tracking image: Port Lincoln Ospreys.
Solly continues to return to Eba Anchorage to roost at night. Tracking image: Port Lincoln Osprey.

And here is a peek at the hatchling at the Duke Farms nest in Hillsborough, New Jersey. Remember that there were three eggs. One laid on Jan 17, the second on the 20th, and the third on the 23rd. If you have followed my postings, you will also remember that this poor eagle was encrusted in snow for many more days than some of the other nests. The dad came and pecked away at the snow so that the female could get out one time.

This poor mother eagle sitting on three eggs had to be pecked out by the dad. Photo credit: Duke Farms Eagle Streaming Cam.

Normally Bald Eagle eggs take 35-37 days to hatch. This is day 40. There is some speculation that egg 3 could be the only viable one.

Egg just hatched. 26 February 2021. Duke Farms. Image Credit: Duke Farms Streaming Eagle Cam.

And here is the full reveal below. Great mom. That shell is cleaned up and the little one looks really healthy!

Here I am! 26 February 2021. Duke Farms brand new eaglet. Image credit: Duke Farms Streaming Eagle Cam.

The parents of the Royal Cam chick, LGL (Lime Green Lime) and LGK (Lime Green Black), showed up at the natal nest to feed the little one. The chick which weights over 2.2 kilos is now in the ‘pre guard’ stage. This is when the parents leave the chick alone on the nest for short periods of time. They forage close and return to feed the baby. Gradually their time away will increase and it is anticipated that the two alternating will have a nice rhythm, one arriving and leaving and in a few days the other arrives, feeds, and leaves. This type of coordination doesn’t happen often. So it was a delight to see the three of them on the nest together at Taiaroa Head, NZ.

The Royal Cam family. 26 February 2021. Photo credit: Cornell Lab and NZ DOC.

Thanks for joining me today as we catch up on some of the amazing birds we have been watching together. I look forward to you checking in again!

Milestones

Birds have developmental ‘milestones’ just like humans. Right now there are so many Bald Eagle nests where eaglets are already two or four weeks old. In others, the parents are incubating eggs. And there are others where the parents are only beginning to start working on the nests. You can see every stage of a Bald Eagles growth from the female laying the egg to their fledging from the nest on the many streaming eagle cameras. Every eaglet is different, just like people and their development will not happen on a single specific date.

Within the overall umbrella of bird development, you might remember Daisy the Duck (see previous blogs for more information on this remarkable little duck). This Black Pacific Duck laid her eggs in the Sea Eagles nest. We knew that the ducklings would jump from the nest 24 hours after hatching if we actually got to hatch – which, sadly, we did not. Those ducklings could see, forage, swim, and take care of themselves without help from the parent. Daisy would, still, gather them up and protect them during the night. Fully independent of their mother, those ducklings would have been ‘precocial’. In contrast, the eaglets are not fully developed, nor are they able to feed themselves, or fly down from their nest. Indeed, they are covered with fluffy down but are unable to regulate their temperature.

It takes from ten to thirteen weeks for eaglets to fledge whereas the ducklings do this at twenty-four hours. Eagles as well as all other hawks or raptors are ‘semi-altricial’. This means that they will be dependent on their parents for everything they need until fledge. Even after fledging, the parents will teach them to hunt and will provide prey supplements for them.

Until the onset of streaming cams, there was very little quantitative information on the development of Bald Eagle Nestlings. Today, there are cameras, often more than one, on nests around the world. You can, at any time of the day, watch Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, Golden Eagles etc. at your leisure. The growing community of citizen birders has impacted the knowledge of avian development and behaviour considerably. We are, indeed, continuing to learn every day. Advances in satellite transmitters means that birds can now be studied after leaving the nest providing much information about foraging, distance from natal nest to establishing their own territory, etc. This blog today is general and non-scientific in its terminology.

Many look at the development of Bald Eagles through three stages: structural growth, feather growth; and behavioural growth. Others attempt to combine feather growth with behaviour and structural development into weekly goals. In fact, I have pondered over this blog and how to approach it for several days because there are different factors that impact development. One of those is gender. There are also studies that have shown that the levels of salt in the diet impact growth while others have examined the amount and quality of prey. We know from studying Red Tail Hawks that if you double the amount of prey and the eyases remain in the nest for several days beyond the average, they are better equipped to fly and hunt. Their overall condition is much stronger. For the purposes of our discussion, I have used evidence from the NEFL Bald Eagle nest in 2021 and the SWFL Bald Eagle nest in 2021 and 2017 (E9). There is one eaglet on the NE nest and two on the SW nest in 2021. The parents on the NE Florida nest are Samson and Gabrielle. Samson was born on this nest on 23 December 2013. He is a little over seven years old. We do not know the age of Gabrielle. At the SW nest, Harriet is in her mid-twenties and M15 is 11 years old. Both nests are located within close proximity to a city – Fort Myers and St Augustine. The Fort Myers nest is unique in that the D Pritchett family has a working farm on the land where the nest is located. They also stock a pond in close proximity to the nest specifically for the eagles. This means that there is always food available. Still, the parents bring in road kill as well as fish from the pond. The NE nest does not have this advantage but nest observations reveal that there is an abundance of food although the variety might not be the same as the SW nest.

Both E17 and E18 were born on 23 January 2021. N24 was born on 8 February.

The first week of their lives, eaglets are covered with fuzzy down. The proper term is natal down. They can sit up but it is difficult to support their heads and focus. You can see the white dot indicating the egg tooth. This will disappear later. They use the egg tooth to break through the thick shell. This is often called the ‘bobble head’ phase. Their heads are big and they do not yet have the neck strength to keep them upright at all times. Their eyes are adjusting to focus. Sibling rivalry might already have started. As the days progress, the eaglets will get the strength to hold up their head and balance it. They will also be able to focus with their eyes so they do not look like they are using their beak like a dart but with a moving target (often their sibling). While the bobble head stage is very cute, it is often a relief when the eaglets are more stable.

SWFL nest 2021. Sibling rivalry began immediately. E17 is on the right and is only two hours older than the twin, E18. This rivalry persists but has dissipated to being only occasional and directly related to feeding.
The egg tooth is clearly present on the eaglet to the left.

By week two, the eaglets will be observed crawling out of the nest bowl. They are not walking. They are crawling. N24 is using its feet and wings to help it get out of the nest cup and up to the pantry. It is five days old! Food is a great motivator! Samson has the little one ‘working’ for its dinner. This helps to strengthen its wings and legs. In the Captiva Florida Eagle nest, Peace climbed out of the nest bowl towards the food on day 2. The inclines of both nests are different. The parents present the eaglets with challenges to help them develop their strength such as stretching their necks, grabbing and holding food, working their legs and wings. It’s like having your own personal trainer!

N24 crawling out of the nest cup on 13 February 2021, 5 days old

The beak will begin to grow and the little ones should begin shooting the ‘ps’ out of the nest bowl by the end of week one or beginning of week two.

N24 doing a great pose to get that PS clear of the nest. Watch out mom!

The eaglets are more observant of their world. They will have doubled in size from the day they hatched and their eyes and beak continue to develop. You will begin to notice that pin feathers are growing in at their wing tips. They will start to stand keeping their balance with these wing tips.

N24 12 days old. Notice the feathers coming in on the wing tip (left side)

More feathers begin to appear on the shoulders and the back and the wing feathers are getting longer as the days progress. They are starting to wing flap and they will try picking up food.

N24 wing flapping, 12 days old

N24 is twelve days old in the picture above and the one below. In the one below, you can also see the pin feathers right at the tip of the wing starting to come in. N24 is also standing for several seconds, getting its balance, and flapping those wings.

N24, 12 days old. Wing flapping.

During the third and fourth week, a pattern of accelerated feedings and growth begins. Head and chest are still showing signs of some fluffy down but more dark feathers are starting to emerge.

E17, SWFL Nest, Age 31 days

The eaglets are actively preening those feathers to help condition them as well as to help stop what some say is an itching as the feathers grow in. There is more wing flapping and the eaglets stand with confidence and stability. During this time you will see attempts at standing and walking. They begin to make some effort at self feeding. They are eating much more at each feeding often lunging at the parent to take the food out of their beak. Many observers say that their crops appear like they could burst! These big feedings often result in the eaglets sleeping immediately after a feeding. This is a ‘food coma’. The enlarged crops are extra storage spaces where food is held before being ‘dropped’ to the stomach. Sometimes people call this accelerated growth period the ‘clown feet’ era because the feet seem to grow way out of proportion to the rest of their body. They will also cast pellets. Pellets are food that is undigested such as fur and bones. Pellets are compressed into a hard shape and regurgitated. This often involves coughing and sometimes the eaglets appear not to want to eat the day the pellet is cast. This level of peak energy demands appears to begin to wane after about five to six weeks.

E18 has its wings dropped while sitting (eaglet on left). Crop is full. 23 February 2021.

Beginning around week five to eight, the eaglets often sit with their wings drooping (getting heavy). Hopping and flapping wings occurs more often. They are very interested in what is happening outside the nest. By the end of this period, they will begin to have more of their juvenile plumage colouration. They will be able to hold food and tear bits. They will begin to mantle food. Mantling is the covering of food with the wings in order to have the prey item to themselves. They will stand for longer periods of time and are able to walk easily by the end of the period.

From week nine to fledging. The feathers will become more defined over their entire body and they will stand for longer periods of time upright. They can stand easily on one leg. The hopping, jumping, and flapping of wings accelerates. They are self-feeding but the parents will also continue to feed them. They will now spend their nights sleeping upright like their parents with their head tucked under their wing. They can easily perch on the edge or rim of the nest and will be branching, hopping up to a branch and back down into the nest. Branching tends to occur from seven to ten days before fledging, generally.

Juvenile feathers are not all in. E9, 2017.
E9 Branching, 2017.
E9 trying out a thinner branch, 2017.

It is always exciting to see the eaglet hatch and sad when they fledge. Unless there is a transmitter or bands, they fledge and there whereabouts often goes unknown. Once they are wholly independent of their parents, the juveniles need to find their own territory and source of prey. Sadly, fifty percent of all first year eaglets perish while ninety percent of all year two eaglets tend to survive. The average age of maturity for Bald Eagles is five to six years although there is a young sub-adult male who is incubating his first eggs with his mate in Minnesota right now.

Thank you so much for joining me today. Stay safe. Be well.

Thank you to the Eagle streaming cams at NEFL and SWFL as well as the D Pritchett family. The scaps came from their streams.