Looking at Eaglets
(Slideshow Overview)

Eaglet Adaptations
Eagle babies have many important physical characteristics to help them survive. Look closely at this eagle chick. How does each part of the chick help it survive? Remember: There's always a WHY behind WHAT you see.

Why does a baby eagle have such long, fluffy feathers on its head? The head loses body heat more quickly than other parts of the body, so the fluffy feathers provide important insulation. These long white feathers grew in very quickly after baby eagle hatched. They will be pushed out as mature feathers grow in.

Why are both of the eagle's eyes set with forward views? Eagles can use both eyes together to see ahead. This gives them binocular vision and depth perception. An eagle's binocular vision helps it catch prey. Many birds have their eyes set more to the sides. This means limited forward views. (That's why robins tilt their heads to look for worms with just one eye.)

Why the huge nostrils? Birds need to breathe in lots of oxygen for their high-energy activities. Eagles also need to take in as much oxygen per breath as possible when flying at high altitudes.

Why is a baby eagle's mouth so different from that of an adult? Notice the yellow corners of the mouth, called the "gape." Unlike the beak, the gape is made of very soft, stretchy tissue. The wide mouth makes it easier for the babies to eat large food. The wide mouth also gives a bigger target for parents helping the babies to eat. As the beak grows with the growing bird, the gape slowly shrinks.

Can you peek into the mouth and see the eaglet's tongue? Eagles use their tongues to help them swallow, just as we do. But their tongues are not as long, so they can't stick them out. An eagle usually keeps it mouth shut. When hot or nervous, eagles open their mouths to pant. This picture was taken on a sunny day, so the eagle may be warm. Or it might be nervous having a photographer stare at it.

Do you see a little bulge on the bird's chest, on its right side? That is where the bird's "crop" is. The crop is like a little sack that sticks out of the esophagus-the tube from the mouth and throat down into the stomach. An eagle can swallow huge chunks of food, even bigger than its stomach can hold because the extra food goes into its crop. Little by little, as the bird's stomach empties, more food goes into it from the crop. Looks like this bird had a good breakfast!

Body Feathers
Why do you suppose baby eagles are dressed like this? Notice how thick the down feathers are. They look more like fur than feathers. As the outer feathers grow in, this down will be covered up by "contour feathers"--the feathers that will give it that distinctive eagle appearance. It will take 3 or 4 years for this bald eagle to grow white feathers on its head and tail.