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Eaglet E7 makes first flight, sibling still in wait

By Staff | Apr 20, 2016

They can be seen clinging onto the branches near their nest, trying to drum up the courage to flap their wings and fly free like their parents.

Finally, on Saturday at around sunrise, the eaglet dubbed E7 made its first flight from its nest on Bayshore Road in North Fort Myers. It may not have been the prettiest of flights, but it represented the fledgling’s first big step toward adulthood.

But while E7 was ready to take the leap, its sibling, E8 may take a while.

After E7 branched for the first time on March 29, it took E8 nearly two weeks to do the same, despite being born only 36 hours after its older sib.

Andrew Pritchett, who operates the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam, said Friday before E7 fledged that this is certainly a unique situation, but he’s happy both eagles have made it this far.

“We’re happy they’re branching and doing well. They’re learning skills and hopefully we’ll be on the watch for a fledge,” Pritchett said.

As for E8, Michelle Van Deventer, eagle expert with the Florida Wildlife Commission, said there shouldn’t be too much concern, that it may have been the fact the older sibling, likely female, beating up on the weaker one, likely male.

“They fight a lot in the nest. The older eaglet was able to have the genetics, dominated the food in the nest, and developed at a faster pace than the other,” Van Deventer said. “It sounds like E8 will get there eventually.”

E8 was also involved in an incident where it got stuck in the nest and had to be rescued, hospitalized and returned.

The average age of fledging in Florida is about 11 weeks, but it can happen anywhere between eight weeks and 15 weeks, Van Deventer said. That two eaglets in the same nest will develop differently is not unusual.

Once they fledge, the eaglets don’t just get left to their own lives, Van Deventer said. They still have a lot of learning to do, especially with flying.

“They’ll become more adventurous as to how are they go from the nest. They will usually fly with an adult and get a sense of the territory,” Van Deventer said. “They will still rely on the adult for food until they develop their hunting and flying skills. It’s not so much the flying skills as the landing.”

This process can take from four to 11 weeks. Once that happens, Van Deventer said they disperse throughout the eastern seaboard or the mountains and become quite nomadic until adulthood, searching for a territory of its own.

The birds do have a strong pull from where they were born, and though they usually find somewhere else to live and breed, sometimes at or close to their birthplace, they sometimes try to return home to mom and dad.

“We see a one- or two-year-old try to come back during nesting season when mom and dad are working on a new nest. Typically, the adults will chase them off. There might be some calling from a distance, but if they try to get too close, they’ll be chased off because they pose a threat to the eaglets,” Van Deventer said.

In the meantime, fans of the eaglets can watch the fledging on the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam, which at any given time has an average of 2,000 viewers. It may be found at dickpritchettrealestate.com/eagle-feed.html

“The interest has been higher because it’s been such a roller-coaster year, especially with what happened to E8. Everything looks to be a success with E8 and we’re glad to see this can be successful,” Pritchett said.