Our two eaglets are now a little over five weeks old, and they seem to be doing very well. We captured a new video this past weekend, so you can see how their flapping skills are developing. In the beginning of the video our older eaglet stands up and practices its flapping and then the younger chick also gives it a go. Then at the end of the video, both eaglets enjoy a very democratic meal brought in by the parent.
When the eaglets are flapping, you can see where their feathers came in first — along their backs, wing edges, and tails. Closer to their bodies, they have mostly down. Also notice how big their talons look. Talons are among the first body parts to become adult size, and they need these big talons to help hold onto the nest when they’re flapping.
Sometimes an eaglet will be flapping, and a big gust of wind will catch their wings and take them out of the nest prematurely. We’ve never had this happen on the Eagle Cam, but it can happen, so it’s important for the chicks to hold on tight, especially on a windy day.
Eagle talons and the corresponding leg muscles are among the most powerful in the bird world, and people who handle eagles (like rehabilitation specialists) have to be careful that they secure an eagle’s feet when handling them because the eagle can drive one of their talons through a person’s hand. The eagle has four talons – three in front and one in back. The talon in the back is called a hallux talon, and it is longer in females than in males. In fact measuring the hallux talon on an eagle is one way that a biologist can determine the gender of the bird. Hallux talons are up to about 2 inches long on large female eagles, and only about an inch and a quarter on small males.
A final note: We plan to start our annual Eaglet-Naming Contest around the end of the week, so start thinking up proper names for our handsome birds.