33.8 °F
December 05, 2016
River Reporter Facebook pageTRR TwitterRSS Search

Counting eaglet heads

These two eaglets (lower right in the nest) are about two weeks old. In their first week after hatching, their plumage appears off-white. Here their dark secondary down is starting to appear.
TRR photo by Scott Rando

May 16, 2014

Bald eagle young have been hatching around mid-April, with some early and late exceptions, and now that they are two weeks old or more, they are more visible in the nest. The heads of these eaglets are popping over nest walls, enabling observation and head counts. Small they are, but not for long. The eaglets, which can be cupped in both hands now, will be 10 pounds and have a wingspan of 6.5 feet in 10 short weeks.

So far, it looks like an average year for the hatchlings; most nests contain two eaglets, which is the norm. A couple of nests have three young, and one nest has only one head visible so far. (This may change as the young get a little bigger and become visible.) Based on past years’ experience, most of the eaglets will successfully fledge. Our area enjoys a better than average success rate for fledglings, largely due to plentiful food supplies and favorable habitat.

Surveys for new nests are underway; if you see a new nest, please contact your respective state wildlife agency. By the way, if you saw a low-flying helicopter on the 7th of May last week, don’t worry; it wasn’t the North Koreans. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation was conducting its annual spring survey for eagle-breeding activity at existing and possible new sites.

Breeding eagles are vulnerable to disturbance and should be given a wide berth. If you see a nest, it is best viewed from several hundred yards away. If you come across a nest while on the river, stay quiet and let the current carry you past; don’t paddle toward the nest. The same goes for perched eagles along the bank. By the end of June, many of the young will have fledged, and they will frequently put on a show for observant paddlers.