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Hello Eagle Fans!
We hope you have been enjoying watching our little eagles grow and get strong. The young family has done an excellent job of surviving the harsh Minnesota spring. The three chicks are now roughly a month old. Though they seem "little" the chicks are almost the size of a crow. In another month, they will be almost full-sized and getting ready to fledge (fly from the nest)! You can see the young already stretching and exercising their wings to get ready for the big flight. Weather challenges are likely not over with, however. In the coming months it is likely they (and we) will have to endure thunderstorms, wind, rain, hail, and lightening. All of these things can be hazardous to the eagles and quite possibly, the camera.
Many people have been worried about and have been sending concerns about the youngest eaglet. It is still obviously smaller than it's siblings, but it is growing at the same rate of speed as the other two. Both parents have been very attentive to all of the chicks, making sure each of them receives food at meal time. The smallest one is just that, the smallest of the three eaglets and one week behind the first chick in development. Sibling rivalry is common and innate in eagles. This behavior prepares them for future hunting, territorial disputes as well as predator attacks. Eagle chicks can be predated on by great-horned owls, raccoons, other raptors as well as other eagles. Rough-housing in the nest is natural and necessary for them to survive in the wild.
There certainly has been no lack of food in the nest. Some of the carcasses brought into the nest include: channel catfish, squirrels, pigeons, rabbits, a red-headed duck, and a muskrat! All of these food items support the diet of the eagles which are considered to be carnivorous raptors. Carnivores eat only meat and receive all of their nutrition from the meat of different species of prey. All of the moisture their bodies need comes from the meat the eagle eat, so they need very little water in their diets.
This week we were able to finally read all of the numbers on Mom's band on her leg! We tracked down the data and found out that she was banded by the Raptor Center of Minnesota in 2010. The band on the left leg is one indicator (most banders use the right leg). She had been brought into the center with a foot injury and intestinal parasites. The doctors at the Raptor Center determined that she was hatched in 2009. After her injuries healed, she was released in Hastings in November of 2010. If this is the same female that nested at our camera nest last year, it would have been her first brood. Eagles reach sexual maturity at the age of five. It takes this long for their plumage (feather colors) to reach the full white head and tail. Inexperience by young birds often does not end well and this might be part of the reason the nest failed last year. Whatever the reason, we were very excited to find out this information about the mother at our nest and that they are raising their first brood just fine!
Once again, the Nongame Wildlife program would like to thank all those who subscribe to this newsletter and especially to those who have donated to the Nongame Wildlife Fund. All donations are so appreciated and we obviously have very generous supporters. Thank you!
Your Nongame Eagle Team