Friday, 17 July 2015

Golden Eagles Fledging

A Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos eyrie set in a large Scots Pine
It is now time for golden eagle chicks to leave their nests and I have been checking several sites to monitor their breeding success. The birds usually fledge in their tenth week, which is a long time for any bird to sit out as it slowly grows, filling in the hours, days and weeks watching the world go by between occasional feeds and long sleeps as it develops from a tiny downy chick to a sturdy eagle.

The adults began nesting in March, laid their eggs at the end of that month, incubated them for six weeks, and now will have to still provide food for the fledglings for a few months. So most of an adult golden eagle's year is filled by rearing young.

This eyrie was built in a multiple fork in the tree, a massive tree with a wide trunk and a magnificent spreading crown
- a true forest giant  
The fledglings' first flight can be a wobbly affair, and this bird will likely take a short one to a neighbouring tree branch. I was surprised that it hadn't taken that step as it was so well developed, but is was raining that day, so perhaps it was waiting for the best flight conditions for that important stage of life. Other birds I have checked lately have left the nest, one twin had gone off around a corner and was nearly a kilometre away from the nest, yet it's sibling was still in the nest - but testing its wings with big strong thrusts and hopping about the nest.

There will be young eagles jumping from trees and cliffs all over the Highlands this week, what a thought, but they will have testing times ahead.

This eyrie was a few metres wide and although the bird is fully grown size-wise, it can be distinguished as a chick by the bright yellow cere and base to its bill. Adults have less bright bills, they are more generally grey-coloured.

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