Eaglets getting to leave home for the first, and only time
They’re growing up.
Photo by Vince Fedoroff
ANY DAY NOW – The three baby eagles are seen this week in the nest. Recent activity, trial flights and such, suggests the eaglets are getting ready to fly the coop.
They’re growing up.
An eaglet at the popular downtown nest site took its first adventure over the edge of the nest earlier this week.
The process, known as fledging, is the first big step before the eaglets will be strong enough to fly away from home for good.
On Monday, one of the three eaglets that calls the nest home, stretched its wings and flew to one of two perches set up three feet above the nest, Laura Carlson, spokeswoman for Yukon Electrical Company Ltd., said this morning.
He (or she, it’s hard to tell at this point) sat there for four hours and then returned home.
“Eagles don’t just leave the nest and fly away,” Carlson explained. “They have to try out shorter distances and strengthen their wings first.”
Not unlike their human counterparts taking the first steps towards independence, the young eagles don’t go far in the beginning — and always return home so mom and dad can feed them.
The length of the fledging process varies from bird to bird, but Carlson estimates it will be at least two weeks before the birds make a clean break and fly away from home for good.
Since May, the three eaglets have starred in their own special reality TV show if you will, having their activities streamed live over the internet via a webcam.
They have amassed quite a following. The site has received about 8,000 hits since May.
Yukon Electrical has received emails from around the world including Mexico, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia and all over Europe.
This morning, one of the eagles flew from the nest into an adjacent tree. The company received a phone call from a resident of Nebraska who was concerned about the eaglet’s whereabouts.
Carlson said the bird is safe where he is and may be able to make it back to the nest. If not, he is close enough for the adult birds to bring him food.
In the beginning the project was only expected to be used as a chance for locals to get a birds’ eye view of the eagles that have become an integral part of the community.
“We never had any idea how far reaching this would be,” she said of Yukon Electrical’s initiative to build a nest next to the Yukon River.
The trio has a core group of dedicated fans, some of whom watch the live steam of events online on a regular basis and can tell you which eagle woke up first that morning or when the group ate last.
“They can tell them apart just by looking,” Carlson said, noting that 509 people were watching the livestream as she spoke. “I can’t, but they can.”
When the eagles do fly away they will make their way to the Alaska coast.
“They all have instinctual drives within them. We’re not sure exactly what that is, but it is there.”
Though the birds will return to the Whitehorse region next year, it is unlikely they will come visit their childhood nest.
That doesn’t mean the home will go to waste though. For the last few years, adult birds have returned to the nest each March to dig out the snow, make repairs and make room for a new family.
Since there is no banding program in the Yukon, it is hard to say for certain if it is the same pair of adults every year.
Yukon Electrical’s history with this nest dates back to 2006 when the company worked with Environment Yukon to rescue two eaglets that had been washed out of a previous nest during a storm that year.
In 2008 the natural nest was moved to a basket on top of a electrical pole. While no birds nested there that year, a pair has been calling the nest home annually since 2009.
Carlson feels confident the nest makes for prime eagle real estate.
“Raising three eaglets to this age is rare,” she said. “I think that means birds will want to stay there in the future.”