2010 Nesting Season Information
Scroll below these nest updates for general information about Bald Eagle nests.
5 May: On the morning of May 4, the Sutton Center first became aware that the second eagle chick was absent from the nest. We traveled to the nest area and found the 5 ½ week old eaglet dead on the ground under the nest tree. There were no apparent external wounds, except one broken flight feather that was still in the blood (still growing). Both parents were present in the general vicinity and apparently unharmed. We climbed the dead tree up to the nest where the third and addled egg remained, but we could not reach it due to an unstable situation.
Several members of our staff have repeatedly reviewed the archived footage from the late evening of May 3. Prior to the incident, the chick, which was standing up and exercising by flapping its wings full of growing, dark brown feathers emerging through the grey down, seemed perfectly healthy. Soon the adult female was on the nest beside the large chick that was now lying down. The time was progressing from 8:45 PM and the light was fading, thus making clear visual assessment through the camera very difficult. The white head of the adult female was clearly visible but surrounded by darkness, when suddenly her head and body quickly turned 180 degrees. Her head went down between her legs into a Bald Eagle threat posture, and within seconds she shot straight up and out of the nest. Nothing more was visible for the rest of the night. At first light the next morning, it was clear that several of the larger sticks in the nest were now positioned differently, and the addled egg was on the opposite side of the nest from where it had been.
Because the adult female had suddenly changed positions and assumed a threat posture right at dusk, our first speculation was that a Great Horned Owl had flown in toward the nest, or perhaps even a rogue Bald Eagle might have attacked as did one recorded through a nest camera on the east coast within the last few years (although this is thought to be very unusual, and requires a complicated explanation that will not be considered here). Other possibilities included nest invasion by a bobcat or even a raccoon drawn to the nest odor under the cover of darkness. In the dark, mammals have an advantage through their sense of smell, a sense that is poorly developed in eagles and most other (but not all) birds.
However, a mammal attack would likely have left some type of damage on the young eagle, even though it ended up on the ground. And, a mammal would most likely have followed the chick to the ground where it would have eaten it. Also, the addled egg would have been eaten by most any mammal. It would be unusual indeed if not totally unlikely for a Great Horned Owl to attack a full grown Bald Eagle standing on its nest with a half grown chick, and, as already stated, for another eagle to attack would be extremely unusual as well. The fact is that young birds of prey spend most of their time lying down initially, on their extended tarsi or legs, until they first begin to stand up at a developmental stage that equals approximately 1/3 of the nest life (nest life for Bald Eagles is about 10-12 weeks depending on whether from the smaller southern race or larger northern race.) This 5 ½ week old chick was standing up but was still not totally steady on its feet, as can be seen during the flapping episodes. When such a chick backs up against a branch, it will instinctively step upward and backward, and that is what we think happened in this small nest. It backed up to the rim, perhaps to defecate, and suddenly tumbled over backwards when it lost its balance on its unsteady feet. This sudden movement in the dark panicked the adult female which quickly turned around in threat posture and then bolted straight up from the nest as it heard the chick falling against branches with resulting noises that could sound like a predator climbing the tree.
This was a small eagle nest, as many have noted, but nesting failures do happen for a variety of reasons; in this case, one might wonder if eagles that build such nests are not as successful in fledging young as eagles that build larger nests. However, that would take a study of many nests in relation to size and nesting success in order to conclude with confidence.
We had planned to place a backpack mounted, solar powered, satellite tracking transmitter on the young from this nest in an effort supported by NatureWorks. Since this will not be possible, we still intend to place transmitters on two eaglets from other Oklahoma nests so that we can get a good idea about where the young birds go once they leave the nest. Our past studies of young Bald Eagles that we hacked (released) in our reintroduction program resulted in tracking the birds into Canada or northern states during the heat of the year, but they returned to the general vicinity of the release sites later in the winter. Stay tuned to this site in the coming weeks for information on this sure-to-be-interesting project.
It is of interest to note that on May 5, really only one day following the fall of the second eagle chick from the nest, Turkey Vultures descended on the failed nest, attracted by the odor of decaying prey remains, and began eating as many scraps as could be found. This included apparent consumption of the third and addled egg as well as fish and other bird remains. They even tore parts of the nest apart in order to gain access to covered waste items.
These eagles will not re-nest until next year. We have no idea where that will be, although it will likely be in the same general area. When birds fail in a nesting attempt, they often move to another nest site, and sometimes even change mates. Usually, if the failure occurs after one half the incubation period has elapsed (total incubation for Bald Eagles is 35 days to complete hatch), the birds do not have time to recycle successfully before it is too hot or too cold or adequate prey is no longer available. These parents will probably hang around the general area, but they could range further now since they have nothing to keep them focused on that specific location. We might see them occasionally feeding on the failed nest or on last year's old nest, or we might see them just loafing in the general area.
It is disappointing to document the failure of such a nest, and yet it is important to realize that such failures are not uncommon and do represent the real, natural world. We hope you will check back to track the movements of the two young eagles that carry the satellite transmitters we will soon be placing on them. And remember that we anticipate placing nest cameras on two Oklahoma eagle nests next year so be sure to stay tuned.
4 May: Sad to say, but it appears the young eaglet in the Sooner Lake camera nest was killed by a predator last night. We have reviewed the archived nest camera footage, but can't see what the predator was. A Great Horned Owl, raccoon or bobcat are likely predators.
The archived footage shows the young eagle on the nest with an adult, likely the female, brooding the young eaglet by covering his head with her breast, typical behavior at this stage in the rearing cycle. The last time we can see the eaglet on the nest, the last time there is sufficient light to discern the nestling's presence with certainty, is at 8:42 pm last night, May 3rd. After that time it gets too dark to see it; however, the adult's white head can be seen in the frame until 8:45 pm. At 8:47 pm there seems to be some rapid and blurry action on the nest. There is a long gap in the video after 8:47 pm because the camera only records archival footage when it detects motion. The next video occurs at 8:08 am, May 4th. At that time the nestling is missing, and an adult lands on the nest. Our best interpretation is that a predator of unknown species caught the young on the nest at 8:47 pm last night, and the adults stayed away until 8:08 am today.
We will be sending someone qualified to assess and manage possible situations at the nest site, someone who can search for whatever clues to the eaglet's fate may be discernable.
Adult female bald eagle returns to nest tree as a Sutton biologist
climbs to nest to examine for any signs of a predator's visit. This was on
May 4, the morning after the second chick disappeared from the view of the
camera and was found dead on the ground below.
|This is the first eaglet just as it was found only two days after hatching when it fell from the nest on April 1. Unfortunately, it did not survive the fall.||This is the second eaglet at about 5.5 weeks of age where it was found after falling from the nest overnight. Its dark feathers were beginning to emerge through its down.|
29 April: Young birds of prey grow very fast as you can see. As long as prey is available, the youngsters are fed regularly by their parents and kept full, so that their body and feathers can grow continuously. In addition to growing, they need help in keeping their body temperatures within a reasonable range. Their normal body temperature is hotter than ours, somewhere around 103 degrees F, and in spring, their second down (grayish brown) keeps them warm and allows them to thermoregulate on cool nights. In the northern parts of their range, the adults sometimes brood the chicks even at this age if temperatures drop precipitously. However, their parents can be needed as well in order to help shade them during the day, especially when the nest structure is in a barren and dead tree such as this one. The parents lift their wings to provide shade for their chick while panting to allow their own body to cool and thus thermoregulate.
The dark brown body and flight feathers are starting to peek out now through the fuzzy down. The primary and secondary feathers on the wing and the tail feathers will keep growing through the entire nest life of the young eagle. In fact, the eaglet will take first flight before these feathers are finished growing. They will still be filled with blood or "in the blood" and finishing in their development for perhaps more than two weeks once the chick has left the nest. Then the blood will recede and the shaft will dry inside so that the feather is light and hollow. Eagle feathers are surprisingly strong, and in addition to flying, the feathered wings are sometimes used to bat down prey (such as a pheasant or duck) that springs into the air when the eagle is flying low over the ground or water. It is important for the eagles to keep their feathers in good condition, and they do this by preening and by applying oil from the preen gland located on top of the fleshy end of the tail from which the tail feathers or rectrices grow. As it grows in body size, you will see the young eagle preen the growing dark feathers, and apply oil to them after rubbing the preen gland. This helps make the feathers waterproof and keeps the interlocking, microscopic barbules of the feather in place.
19 April: After a couple of days of a cloudy period when the solar chargers could not keep the batteries working, the sun has come out this morning and restored our view. The chick, while awkward and clumsy, continues to grow and develop.
5 April: We do not expect the remaining egg to hatch. This is not uncommon, and viewers from last year will remember a similar situation. The egg may not have been fertile, or it may have been damaged, or it may have become infected by bacteria drawn through the pores of the shell. If you scroll down this page below these nest activity comments, you will find some information and a timeline describing the development of Bald Eagle chicks.
2 April: Many have commented on the small size of the nest this year. It is indeed a small nest for eagles, being an old hawk nest that the eagles took over and remodeled this season. It is also not particularly well constructed, and the tree is dead. It is possible that the recent strong winds have shifted the tree or the nest, contributing to the chick's fall, but we just don't know. Members of our staff who visited the site yesterday reported extremely strong winds and several branches that appeared to have been blown out of the nest. If the eagles were to use this nest in future years it would likely grow in size as more sticks are added over time. If the nest were to fail this year, there is a good chance the pair would either move back to the tower nest or choose another site next year. If they succeed in raising a chick this year it is hard to say where they will choose to nest next year. The choice of site is up to them, and we try to chronicle their nesting seasons with our cameras. This pair of eagles has been very successful in their original dead tree nest by the lake (a tree that has since fallen), and in the tower nest familiar to camera viewers of the past seasons. Though unpleasant to witness or hear about, events such as happened yesterday (the fall of the youngest chick) are an everyday occurrence in nature, and our goal with the camera is to show you what really happens to wild birds in wild places, and to provide information along the way.
1 April: We wish this was just an April Fools' Day prank, but the youngest chick fell from the nest about 2 pm and did not survive. Tragedy strikes frequently in the natural world, and this is just one example of many. Our cameras show real life as it unfolds, the heartwarming along with the heartbreaking. After some tense moments with the remaining chick on the edge of the nest, it managed to crawl back into the bowl.
30 March: A second chick has hatched! Afternoon observers could see that an egg was pipped (a small hole made in the shell by the chick as it begins to hatch). Later that afternoon the chick emerged from the egg. The photo below shows both chicks and the remaining egg. Now the wait is on to see if the third egg will hatch.
29 March: The photo below shows the female eagle feeding the first chick bites from a dead American Coot that is in the nest. The male can be seen perched above the nest in the wide camera view. Male and female eagles look the same (except for females being larger), so we are basing our gender designations on behavior. Males have the primary hunting role, while females typically feed the young.
28 March: The first chick has hatched! Eagle eggs typically hatch several days apart, so we will all be watching to see if the remaining two eggs hatch as well. Below is a YouTube video of the chick recorded by a nest camera fan.
26 March: There are some signs that the long hatching process may be beginning. The adults have seemed restless, often checking the eggs, and part of a rabbit was delivered to the nest by the male. Hatching can take 2-3 days.
24 March: Here is a YouTube video of several of today's incubation exchanges recorded by a nest camera fan.
19 March: Most pairs of Bald Eagles in Oklahoma laid eggs much earlier in the winter than this pair. Oklahoma's eagles frequently contend with cold snaps and snow during incubation, so the weather expected this weekend will not be unprecedented for them to cope with, and we hope all will be well with them, although there is no guarantee.
17 March: The male and female eagles switch incubation duties several times each day, although each switch takes place rather quickly and is easy to miss. The female does the bulk of the incubation.
12 March: The first egg was seen by our camera when we first activated it on our visit Feb 17. It could have been laid that day or as early as Feb. 14, but either way incubation had not started yet since the birds were off the nest for nearly two hours when he first arrived to observe from a distance. Because egg laying had started and is a critical time for desertion due to too much disturbance, we left and did not visit again until March 4, at which time we knew the clutch would be fully complete with the female in full incubation--still, a risky time for disturbance. The second egg could have been laid on Feb 17 after our visit that day (although we don't think so owing to her absence and behavior observed from a distance upon our arrival) or as late as Feb 20, and the third egg as late as Feb 23. Incubation might have started, at least initially with slight warming with the second egg, or full incubation with the third egg. So we are strictly guessing that incubation started about Feb 20, but it could have been as much later as Feb 23. We know that external pipping (the breaking of a tiny hole in the shell from inside using the chick's egg tooth as a reflex resulting from buildup of carbon dioxide) occurs in Bald Eagles at about 33.5 days of incubation, followed by about 48-72 hours of chick resting, before a 30 minute to 2 hour turning in the shell and breakout by the chick to greet the world and his or her parents. Allowing about 35 days total, we should look for hatching of the eggs on or about March 26-30 (although they could hatch slightly earlier). Keep your fingers crossed that all goes well with the eggs.
8 March: For viewers who have tuned in only recently, here is a really short summary of this nesting pair of eagles. They have nested for many years on OG&E property, first in a dead tree and later on an artificial tower structure erected when their nest tree was becoming weak. After using the tower for a number of years, this season they have moved to a tree nest about a mile away. It is not uncommon for eagles to change nest sites, and it is likely that they will return to the tower in a future season. In fact, they have still been using the tower occasionally for feeding and copulation this past winter before settling on the new nest site where they now have three eggs.
5 March: Good news! Three eggs have been laid in the alternate nest! We hope to have the video working tonight or tomorrow.
22 February: It looks as though the eagles are settling on the alternate nest site. We expect
to complete the technical arrangements for video viewing at this site within 2 weeks,
weather permitting. We are developing some new methods and equipment that will
be used to make things work at this new location.
16 February: The pair seems to be most interested in their new alternate nest site,
but we are still waiting for them to finish a nest (one or the other) and begin laying eggs.
We have had cameras in place at the new nest for some time and will connect power and
transmission capability to the camera cables if the eagles definitively settle on that nest.
Observers have noted a third adult eagle in the area, but it isn't clear what that means.
1 February: The eagles have been actively working on the new tree nest about a mile from
the tower. But they are also spending time at the tower nest. Only time will tell what their plans
are for nesting this year. We do have cameras installed at the tree nest and are working on
the rest of the needed infrastructure to stream that video if the birds decide to use that nest.
22 January 2010: We have staff members and volunteers out checking the situation on the ground and will post another update when we have more information. From the cameras we can see that the eagles continue to visit the pole nest with some regularity to feed or perch, but they have not started refurbishing the nest yet.
6 January 2010: Two of our staff visited the nest site and several miles around it yesterday to
evaluate the situation. They observed 15 eagles (7 of which were adults), and located four nests, although none had signs of eagle activity. The pair of adults we believe nests on
the tower each year flew in and perched on the crossbar around dusk. This pair is traditionally one of the later nesting pairs in the state, often not laying until early February.
22 December 2009: The cameras are now online, although we are still working through some
intermittent problems now and then. The eagles do spend some time at the nest, but are not
there full time yet. A new and improved eagle nest cam page will debut sometime in early 2010.
18 December 2009: It is still isn't clear which nest the eagles will choose to use. We plan to install a camera on a portable tower near the tree nest in case they use that one. The video feed from the original tower nest should be up and running soon.
4 December: Our field crews from OG&E, Atlas Computers, and Sutton placed new cameras and connection lines at the old nest recently, but we found the eagles are building a new nest in another location nearby. The new tree nest is in a difficult situation (for human climbers) at which to place cameras, but we are doing our best to do so before the eagles lay eggs. Of course we cannot gain access to the nest once the eggs are laid. This morning the adult female was back sitting on the crossbar of the old pole nest. Since Bald Eagles often build and maintain more than one nest in the same vicinity, but finally choose one of the nests in which to lay eggs and raise young, it is hard to know exactly what might happen. We will keep you posted.
19 November: Read an article about our eagle cam project in the Fall 2009 issue of Sooner Magazine by clicking here.
18 November: Some nest cam equipment was recently replaced and we will soon be making minor improvements to the nest tower that will enable the eagles to enlarge their nest. Little activity is taking place at the nest lately, although activity should pick up in a month or two, and we should have the cameras online again between now and then.
8 September: Some camera problems have resurfaced, and relatively little recent eagle activity has been noted in the vicinity of the nest. The autumn season is typically the time period when the eagles have the least attachment to the nest area. For this reason, we plan to visit the site this fall to replace cameras, inspect and improve the nest structure, and maintain other associated electronic equipment in preparation for another nesting season. We don't expect a lot of eagle activity at the nest this fall. The eagles may begin spending more time near the nest again late this year, and egg laying usually begins in January or early February.
16 August: An eagle of unknown age was seen perched in a tree near the nest.
1 August: All three birds were reported to be present near the nest by an observer who visited the site.
22 July: The primary nest cam has now stopped working (and is inaccessible to us with birds still in the area). The second nest camera's mount is knocked out of alignment so it cannot reach the nest. As soon as the widecam comes back from the repair center we will restore the widecam view. We can report that an adult transferred food to the eaglet this morning, so all is well.
16 July: The widecam had to be sent to the factory for repairs, which will take 2-3 weeks. As of last weekend, a visitor to the area of the nest reported that all three birds were still present.
10 July: As of yesterday, all three family members were seen at the site. Camera problems resulting from rain are being worked on.
19 June: Recently fledged Bald Eagles are often at a higher than optimal weight for flying, and they may have little interest in or need for food. They might only eat something every other day, so it can be easy to miss seeing a meal. The eaglet continues to do well.
17 June: The eaglet continues to remain in the vicinity of the nest, perching in trees most of the time. This is completely normal behavior for a fledgling eagle. We are sometimes able to locate it by searching with our WideCam to maintain the viewing opportunity a little longer.
16 June: Nest cam watchers observed the eaglet fly off of the nest early this morning! It is possible that it will make occasional reappearances at the nest in the coming days or weeks (kind of like a hungry college student!). The adults will likely continue bringing food to and using the nest for a while, and you may still catch a glimpse of the eaglet. Many have asked to see video of the fledging. Our archive did not record that few seconds of behavior, but here is a link to a 10-minute YouTube video someone from the Maine eagle discussion group caught. A short clip of the flight can be viewed by clicking here.
9 June: The eaglet is now old enough to go to the bar. Well, fly up to the crossbar, that is! She (we think it is a she based on size and behavior) is exercising her wings with this short hop. The adults spend very little time at the nest, primarily dropping off a fish once or twice a day.
29 May: While watching the WideCam, we have noticed Scissor-tailed Flycatchers in the vicinity of the nest. As aerial insectivores, they perch on or below the nest and watch for flying insects to capture in flight. So, we have the state bird of Oklahoma and our national symbol together at once!
27 May: All is well at the nest. The eaglet may begin making short flights within a few weeks. It will likely continue to spend time at the nest after its initial flights.
19 May: As the eaglet matures, it requires less care and the adults spend less and less time at the nest. The eaglet continues to be fed by the adults every day. The gender of the eaglet cannot be determined accurately without surgical inspection, though females are usually larger than males. Our eagle experts think this eaglet is a female based on their past experience and from watching its behavior.
7 May: The chick is showing less and less gray down and more and more dark feathers.
6 May: We hope to be able to get a nest cam working again this week or next, so that we, like you, can continue to monitor the growth of the eaglet. Forecasted rainy weather this week may continue to cause power problems intermittently. In the coming week we will be installing a fresh set of deep-cycle batteries, as well as a small wind generator that will supplement the solar power, and will be mounted in such a way as to pose no threat to the eagles or other wildlife.
30 April: Some sunshine last evening allowed the camera to work, and the eaglet had a meal of fish. Being older now, it does not need to eat as often as it did as a small chick.
24 April: While adult eagles may occasionally take a drink while bathing, nestling eagles obtain all of the water they need from their food. Meat is, of course, mostly water, and provides sufficient hydration for them.
22 April: As the Oklahoma weather gets warmer the eagles will need to cool down. The way they accomplish this while on the nest is to pant. Birds don't have sweat glands, and instead cool themselves by evaporating moisture from their respiratory systems. You may also notice the eaglet taking advantage of the strip of shade provided by the nest support structure. At times the eagles may appear to be stressed by the heat, but unlike Alaskan eagles, these are of the southern race of Bald Eagles and they have evolved to live and survive in nests open to the full sun and heat of the southern U.S.
20 April: As in most young animals, the eaglet spends a fair amount of time sleeping. The adults are beginning to leave it alone a little more often as well. Unhatched eggs can either break, be removed or buried by the adults, or ignored, as this egg has been for some time.
15 April: This intimate view of the nest life of birds is apparently generating concern that the chick will simply fall out of the nest at any time. What you are viewing here is simply one example of what takes place in millions of bird nests every spring and summer. Consider that many thousands of generations of eagles and other birds have been produced, and that this species is currently increasing in population. Predation is the leading cause of nest mortality in most birds, but this nearly impregnable tower is a safe haven from predators. In rare instances, severe weather or unusual accidents can result in a young bird falling from a nest, but it doesn't happen often. This eaglet is in a deep cup, and the adults continue to build up the edge of the nest cup. Eagles nesting at this location have raised 25 young in the past 15 years, so they are proven performers when it comes to raising young. Enjoy the view!
10 April: Despite the appearance of the wide angle cam picture, the nest structure is in a stationary body of water and not in a swift river. The chick is growing well, and the rotten egg remains in the nest.
3 April: Regarding the abundance of food (coots and fish) in the nest, once a chick hatches, the male's hunting instinct goes into overdrive, and he begins bringing in as much food as possible. It can be too much food, especially when the chicks are young, or as in this case when there is only one chick.
1 April: Camera viewers this morning noticed an unhatched egg stuck to the female as she stood up and flew off. The egg dropped off in flight. It had probably leaked and adhered to her feathers. (No fooling!)
30 March: A very interesting sequence of events takes place about 10:35 CDT. The male brings in an American Coot and begins eating it. A large stick is in his way, and he spends a moment rearranging it several times. The female rises and the male begins feeding the chick, who clambers over to get closer to the coot. The female begins burying the unhatched eggs in the nest lining. Shortly thereafter, the female leaves and the male unburies the eggs and settles on them, by all appearances ineptly excluding the chick for a few minutes before allowing it to climb under for brooding. He seemed focused on the eggs, although they are almost certainly rotten at this point.
26 March: First chick is doing well. Still waiting to see if the other 2 eggs hatch. Numerous fish and an American Coot have recently been delivered to the nest by the male.
21 March: The first egg hatches!
25 February: Good news! The trash bag blew out of the nest.
24 February: Black trash bag blows into nest. (A good reminder not to litter!)
13 February: Third egg is laid!
9 February: Second egg is laid!
6 February 2009: First egg is laid!
Bald Eagle Nesting Information
Sexual maturity and breeding generally coincide with attaining adult plumage (head and tail becoming all white, beak yellow, and the eyes white), from 3 to 5 years of age.
Nest site selection and building can begin as early as late September in Oklahoma. Several nests may be constructed by a single pair in the same territory.
Nests are typically located in one of the taller trees in an area, just below the crown, about 3/4 the way up the tree, against the trunk or in a sturdy fork of the tree. Assorted interwoven sticks up to 1 inch or more in diameter make up the bulk of the nest. The nest is lined with soft grass, moss, or other fine materials. Nests can take months to complete, are added to each year, and in exceptional cases can end up weighing several tons.
One clutch of 1-3 eggs is laid per year. However, a replacement clutch may be laid in the event of a loss during laying or early incubation. Incubation begins sometime from December or January in Oklahoma and lasts for 33.5 days, while the hatching process can take up to 2 days. If more than one egg is present, the others hatch at intervals of 2-3 days. This results in eaglets of different sizes with the first hatched eaglet being the largest, a difference that is maintained until growth is completed before fledging.
After fledging eagles may gain weight, but they do not grow very much larger dimensionally. Female Bald Eagles, as with many birds of prey, average larger in size than males; however, there can be an overlap between the sizes of the sexes. Size is almost the only visible difference between them. Eagles nesting in the northern part of their range also average larger in size than those from the southern parts of their range.
About a third, on average, of Oklahoma Bald Eagle nests fail, either during incubation or brooding, for mostly unknown reasons. Causes of nest failure could be due to food shortage, inclement weather, human disturbance, predators, and environmental contaminants.
Development of Bald Eagle Young
Week One: At hatching, the young are covered with a light gray down and have limited mobility. Their eyes, dark brown in color, are closed, but open after a few hours. The female parent does the majority of the brooding while the male parent provides most of the food for the family. Aggressive antagonistic behavior can appear shortly after hatching wherein the oldest, largest eaglet tries to dominate or even kill its sibling(s).
Week Two: The second down plumage, darker in color, begins to replace the first. At the end of this period thermoregulation is attained; that is, the eaglet can maintain its own body temperature under normal weather conditions without brooding from an adult.
Week Three: Black contour feathers on back, shoulder, breast and wings begin to emerge.
Week Four: Flight feather development underway.
Week Five: Male and female parents bring relatively equal amounts of food. Parents begin spending more time away from the young and often perch in nearby trees.
Week Six: Young are able to tear pieces of food off and feed themselves, and begin to stand and walk.
Week Seven: Maximum body growth nearing completion.
Weeks Eight - Twelve: Nestlings begin "branching". They flap their wings while perched on the nest and hop onto nearby branches, practicing and building up flight muscles, coordination, and landing skills. Most of Oklahoma's Bald Eagles fledge between 11 and 12 weeks after hatching. After the first flight the eaglets may return to the nest a few times to spend the night (roosting) or to get food brought there by the adults.
After fledging the young are still dependent on the adults to feed them for a period of up to a couple of months until they gain the experience and skills to find and catch their own food. Radio-telemetry studies of a few Bald Eagles reared in Oklahoma show that they migrate north during the hottest months of the summer to cooler climates such as the Great Lakes area or Canada.
The initial flagship project of the Sutton Center was the reestablishment of breeding Bald Eagles in the southeastern U.S. How did we do it? To find out about these intensive and very successful restoration efforts, click here.