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Ready to fly

By Staff | Jun 10, 2020

If you are watching the Southwest Florida Eagle cam, you may have noticed that one of the eaglets seems ready to fledge, flapping its wings relentlessly, taking very short flights from one branch to another.

At any time now, E15, who turned 10 weeks old on Tuesday, will take its first flight from the nest on the Pritchett Farm off Bayshore Road in North Fort Myers.

For much of the past week, E15 has been strengthening its wings, flapping them continuously, and even took a short flight to the veranda (another branch on the nest tree).

Andy Pritchett, founder of the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam, said it’s been great to see how both eaglets have developed into juveniles.

“They’re progressing as they should and it’s great to see them take their first fledge,” Pritchett said. “It’s amazing how nature can be resilient and turn things around when it seemed they wouldn’t be successful.”

This whole season has been a rough one for Southwest Florida’s most famous eagle pair, Harriet and M15. Their first clutch resulted in one egg not being viable and their lone eaglet, E14, dying less than a month after hatching, on Jan. 15.

The pair tried again, with Harriet laying two more eggs in late February. E15 hatched on March 31, with E16 hatching April 2.

E15 is coming in fast on the time it will take its first flight. Both eaglets are gaining the strength needed to do it. This means getting food, and Harriet and M15 are constantly going out and getting food for these growing eagles.

Mostly, they have eaten fish, which eagles tend to prefer. However, an occasional squirrel or small turtle will be brought to the nest. E16 has developed a rather large appetite and is now able to eat an entire fish by itself after spending the first few weeks losing the battle for food to its sibling.

E16 seems a little slower to develop. While it has also been flapping its wings, it had yet to branch as of Monday morning, leading some to wonder if the rainy conditions of the last week has had something to do with it.

The normal time for an eaglet to fledge is between 10 and 13 weeks. Once the eaglets fledge, Harriet and M15’s job is not done.

The eaglets will remain near the nest for the next several weeks, learning to hunt and honing their flying skills. During this time, the parents will continue to provide food for them.

Young eagles develop their hunting skills on their own, but also watch their parents after they fledge and learn from them. From there, they learn through trial and error.

In other words, it’s been a routine process.

“Not a whole lot has been going on. It’s just been going as it should,” Pritchett said.

The Southwest Florida Eagle Cam may be viewed at dickpritchettrealestate.com/eagle-feed.html.