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juvenile hanging upside down
Jon McRay
Bald Eagle
Ray Foster
fledgling
Peter Nye
Bald Eagle Fledgling Facts
  • The young will stay in the nest about 11 to 12 weeks. By this time their downy feathers are replaced by juvenile feathers. At the end of this time the adults will start encouraging them to fly.

  • First flights are often rather awkward and up to half of fledging attempts are less than successful and the young bird is stuck on the ground. The parents typically continue to feed these grounded birds and eventually they do fly again.

  • It takes practice for the young birds to become proficient at flying. Landings are almost always awkward and somewhat conspicuous for newly fledged eagles.
  • Eagles learn and hone their ability to fly several weeks before actually flying. As the young birds grow and develop they can often be seen exercising their wings on the nest or on a nearby branch several days prior to fledging (first flight from the nest). They practice with short takeoffs and landings on and around the nest, gaining strength and improving their agility and landing ability.

  • Practicing flying is crucial for the young birds, as many try to fly prematurely, especially when startled or flushed from the tree by predators and people who get too close.

  • These behaviors become more frequent and more adventuresome as the young approach fledging.

  • During this period at the nest, the eaglets are out of view much of the time because they are "branching" — or sitting in the branches of their home tree, which is a natural lead-up to fledging.

  • Eagles learn and hone their ability to fly several weeks before actually flying. They practice with short takeoffs and landings on and around the nest, gaining strength and improving their agility and landing ability. This is called "branching" — or sitting in the branches of their home tree, and is a natural lead-up to fledging. This is a crucial stage for the young birds as many try to fly prematurely, especially when startled or flushed from the tree by predators and people who get too close.

  • As fledging approaches, adults may start withholding food, perching with food near the nest, or flying over with food to tempt the nestlings to fly. Adults may also encourage nestlings through vocalizations and low circling over/around the nest. When hungry, thirsty, or confident enough, the nestlings fledge.
  • Once an eagle has taken a flight, it enters the fledgling phase of development. For the first 6 weeks, it will stay close to the nest site and the parents. It may still return to the nest.

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