Feather Development

I just got back from vacation (spring break), so thanks to everyone for being patient while the blog and gallery updates were put on hold.

Our eaglets are doing very well and becoming more mobile each day. We currently have a plan to zoom the cam out around April 4 (that’s when our volunteer will be free), so we can see more of the nest and more of the eaglets as they begin to walk around.

Among the most noticeable changes in our eaglets are their very big yellow feet, which you can see in the photo posted here. Also notice their crops (on their chests), which hold extra food. These pouches get rather large as the eaglets feed, and the eaglets can make use of this food after the meal is over and their stomachs empty out.

Blackwater NWR Eaglets

Our older eaglet is getting a large set of dark brown pin feathers on its head, back, and wings. New feathers — or pin feathers — develop inside a shaft that is fed with blood (why they’re sometimes called blood feathers). The waxy shaft protects the feather until it’s fully grown, and once that happens, the eaglet will pull or rub the shaft off and the new feather will unfurl. Over the coming weeks, we’ll see both eaglets slowly developing their first set of feathers, and once that process is almost done, the eaglets will be ready to begin branching in preparation for their first flight.

Our photographer friend Woody Dawson follows an eagle nest along the Susquehanna River, and he sent us the following photo showing an immature bald eagle in the nest with its wing raised. This wonderful photo gives us a great look at the pin or blood feathers running along the underside of the eaglet’s wing. This photo also gives you a better sense of how big our eaglets’ wings and beaks are becoming.

Pin Feathers

Eagles have different types of feathers. The feathers we can see on the outside are contour feathers, and then underneath those are the soft downy feathers, which help keep the birds warm. In addition, there are different types of contour feathers — such as the primaries (strongest of the flight feathers) and the secondaries (feathers that help with soaring). If you’d like to learn more about bird feathers, be sure to visit the Cornell University feather page.

Currently I’m working on an update to the Eagle Cam Gallery, and we’ll also be opening the Osprey Cam Gallery very shortly. Thanks to those sending in their photos.

Until next time,
Lisa – webmaster
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Categories: eagle cam, eaglet, feathers | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Feather Development

  1. Jonnie

    Very interesting to see the underside of the eaglet’s wing. And, good to hear that the cam will be zoomed soon.

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