What's next for the eaglets as they grow and become more active by the day? For answers, we checked in with eagle expert Larissa Smith, a biologist for Conserve Wildlife Foundation. (In a post two weeks ago, Larissa talked about branching and diet, here.) Do the chicks fledge when they leave the nest for the first time, or when they are able to fly? We consider fledging when they take their first flight. But taking their first flight doesnt mean that they are suddenly soaring gracefully through the skies. Weve had eagle project volunteers report seeing eaglets take their first flight and crash-land into trees and end up hanging upside down or on the ground. It takes lots of practice.
What happens after they leave the nest? Even after they take their first flight, they will stay in the nest area for the next few weeks as they learn to fly and hunt on their own. The parents will still bring them food at first. Its a tough world out there for fledglings. The mortality rate for first-year eagles is higher than 50 percent. They are just learning how to survive on their own and honing their hunting skills. Unfortunately, we saw that occur in 2014, when one of the three DF chicks was found dead in Maine about a month or so after fledging.
How is that citizen science eagle diet survey coming? Will you announce the results at some point? I havent gotten many data sheets so far. Im hoping that some people are waiting until the end of the season to send all of their data sheets. So please send me your data, thank you. (You can send them to Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ, 2201 County Route 631, Woodbine, NJ 08270, Attn: Larissa Smith. They are due by July 1.)
Anything you'd like to add? Id like to thank all the Duke Farms Eagle Cam viewers for their enthusiasm. If you cant get enough of watching nest cams, the osprey cam on Conserve Wildlife Foundation website is up and running, as well as the bat cam.
Jim Wright writes The Bird Watcher columnist for The Record. He is the author of four coffee-table books about wild places, and a deputy marsh warden of the Celery Farm Natural Area in Allendale, N.J.
Got a question or suggestion? E-mail Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org.