[Bristol-Birds] South Holston eaglet fledging may take a couple of weeks.

  • From: "Wallace Coffey" <jwcoffey@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Bristol-birds" <bristol-birds@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 30 May 2009 23:19:06 -0400

As the month of May draws to a close, the eaglet in the South Holston
Lake Bald Eagle's nest has now reached about 61 days or so of age.

If you had been watching this nest as long as Bill and Sandy Lawson,
your first thought might be that the eaglet is large and appears 
eager to fly away.  It would seem that the eaglet would leave any 
day -- a logical conclusion.

Eaglets are a long time in getting their strength and wings for flight.
At this age, the one eaglet is constantly flapping and has climbed
out on a branch beyond the nest and even on a limb below.


"It's fun to see people get excited about birds!  
Hope our little eaglet is a successful little 
booger!" -- Comment from an area birder.

Adult eagles vary in size according to sex.  Females are larger by
size and weight than males.  If our eaglet at South Holston is a female,
she can actually be larger than her father at this date.  She can be a
little heavier and a little larger in some measureable lengths.

The smaller males average taking flight and leaving the nest at about
78 days while females are expected to take about 82 days before they

If that is in order at the South Holston nest.  Then our eaglet has a 
good two weeks to three weeks before it fledges to flight.  

The projections would be a male might be expected to fledge about
June 17 and a female about Father's Day weekend (June 20-21).

Of course all of this is based on both my observations and the biologists'
from Virginia Tech's estimate that the eaglet hatched around April Fool's
Day -- April 1.  

It will take us awhile to know exactly when the young eaglet will leave the
nest tree and fly out into the big world.  Does this mean that if you are
there watching, the eaglet will leap into the blue sky and circle up higher
and higher to enjoy a good thermal ?  Absolutely not.  

Nevertheless,  you might be pleasantly surprised to see how smooth
and strong and well an eaglet can fly when it leaves the nest site.

When we were involved with hacking eaglets at the hack site near Little
Oak Campground on South Holston some years ago,  the eaglets could
put on a good show as they made their first flights.  They would make you
want to cheer.

But they almost always made a crash landing.  They can go down into the
lake and then row themselves to shore with their wings.  They can flop
to the ground almost head first.  They can fly into the canopy of a tree
and end up hanging upside down.  It ain't pretty.  They sure wouldn't
want you to take a video of our national bird in such an awkward situation.

It at least appears now that we have a few weeks remaining.  Meanwhile,
the adults can keep feeding the eaglet every four hours or so and that
requires nearly two pounds of fish per feeding -- about the same as 
required to feed an adult.  After all, no one said teenagers can't eat you
out of house and home :)

Let's go birding . . . .

Wallace Coffey
Bristol, TN

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