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| April 1, 2018| : Day zero: Recovering from hatch
Day zero: Recovering from hatch
A newly hatched bald eagle. Its white down has not dried and its eyes have not receded back into their sockets. We can see its large eye, pink skin, tiny pink leg and talons (look up by its eye), and relatively light beak, which will soon turn dark. A little smear of yolk still clings to its wing, its egg tooth is barely visible behind nesting materials, and it can't yet raise its head.
After it dries off and recovers from the hard work of hatching, it will stretch its limbs and lift its head for its first feeding. It weighs about 3.2 ounces at hatch - roughly the weight of 18 nickels or a deck of cards.
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| April 2, 2018| : Day one: Sitting up and feeding
Day one: Sitting up and feeding
A one day old eaglet. D29 has long, fluffy white down, a visible egg tooth, a darker beak, and visible ear holes. Although D29 isn't moving around the nest and can't see well yet, it can sit up and is beginning to feed more proficiently.
| April 3, 2018| : Day two: Let the bonking begin!
Day two: Let the bonking begin!
Eaglet D29 has a sibling! The eaglets started establishing a pecking order today, laying the groundwork for future eagle table manners like fighting, stealing, gorging, and even sharing if the circumstances are right. The instinct to dominate won't entirely go away, but in-nest eaglet bonking battles are usually at their most intense in the first two to three weeks of nest life. We may not like them. but the bonking battles that started today mark an important developmental milestone in the lives of our eaglets.
| April 4, 2018| : Day three: Growing beaks, yellow feet!
Day three: Growing beaks, yellow feet!
Both eaglets are gaining weight and growing two important body parts! Their beaks and mid-toes are growing larger, and their legs and footpads have turned from pink to yellow. D29 is upping its food game with larger bites, while D30 refuses (for now) a subordinate role in the pecking order and food line. D30 is on the left and D29 is on the right.
Although the eaglets are very close in age, D29 has a larger beak than D30. Since food is the root of all else besides, it isn't surprising that eaglets' beaks start growing right away. D29's larger beak allows it to manipulate and accept larger pieces of food, which helps fuel its fantastic growth rate. If we assume an even weight gain, D29 should weigh a little more than 5 ounces today.
| April 5, 2018| : Day four: new sibling, bigger bites!
Day four: new sibling, bigger bites!
D31 hatched at 11:44 PM CDT last night and was recruited into the pecking order competition early this morning! Watchers worried that it was missing meals, but Mom and Dad made sure that everyone got fed in between the bonking battles and beakdowns.
So how much larger is D29 than either of its siblings? Eaglets go from about 3.2 ounces to 16 ounces in their first seven days of life. If we assume an that each eaglet gains about 2 ounces per day, D29 should be roughly 10 ounces, D30 should be roughly 8 ounces, and D31 should be roughly 4 ounces. D29 has more than doubled in size in four days, and its coordination and bite capability have increased noticeably. On April 1st, Mom and Dad needed to lever small bites into D29's gaping mouth. Four days later, we saw D29 lunge for larger bites that Mom and Dad dangled from their beaks. Like sitting up, leg color change, and beak bonking, feeding proficiency is an important milestone along the road from hatch to fledge!
| April 6, 2018| : Day five: A professional poop shoot!
Day five: A professional poop shoot!
After a rousing early morning beak battle with D30, D29 took a bathroom break. It bent over, pointed its rear end, and shot poop right out of the egg cup! Way to go, D29 - you are pooping like a big eaglet now!
So why is this a milestone? Eaglets instinctively shoot poop out of the nest. It keeps the nest cleaner - who wants to lay in poop? - and helps prevent gastro-intestinal parasites. But to shoot poop, eaglets have to be good at standing up, leaning over, elevating their bottoms, and aiming for the outside. A good poopshoot takes coordination, strength, and balance, making it an important milestone on the road from hatch to fledge!
Thanks to John Howe for the heads-up on this particular milestone. Nice spotting!
| April 7, 2018| : Day six: Babysitting from the skywalk
Day six: Babysitting from the skywalk
Dad left the eaglets alone in the nest for a little bit today, although he stayed close by to keep an eye on things. The two older eaglets sat up tall and looked around. Although they can't yet resolve images outside the nest, their visual acuity is rapidly improving and they are growing curious about the world around them.
| April 8, 2018| : Day seven: Eaglet explorers!
Day seven: Eaglet explorers!
Despite the unusually cold weather, the rapidly growing eaglets are eager to explore! They are popping out from under Mom and Dad, nibbling at nesting materials with their beaks, and sitting up tall to view the world around them. Exploration helps the eaglets build strength, develop motor skills, and learn about the world around them. As they grow, initial explorations like nibbling nest materials will branch into full-fledged play/practice!
| April 9, 2018| : Day eight: Pretty preening
Day eight: Pretty preening
When birds preen, they remove dust, dirt and parasites from their feathers and align each feather in its optimum position. While D29's exploratory downy nibbles today were cute overload for everyone watching, they also marked an important first step on the road to feather care!
| April 10, 2018| : Day nine: Thermal down is starting to pop!
Day nine: Thermal down is starting to pop!
A close up look at D29 today showed that its thermal down is starting to pop! An hatchling eaglet's fuzzy white natal down is adorable, but not much help when it comes to thermoregulation, aka controlling one's temperature. Denser thermal down provides more insulation and helps nestling eaglets keep their body temperatures at a relatively constant 105'ish degrees. Look for the greyish down to sprout in rows along the eaglets' bodies. It will almost entirely replace their natal down by their fourth week!
The colder than usual temperatures have Mombrella and Poptent keeping a tight lid on the eaglets this spring. While it's sad to say goodbye to cute baby fuzz, we'll see more of D29, D30, and D31 once their thermal down grows in. In the meantime, enjoy those earholes now!
| April 11, 2018| : Day 10: Eaglet escapee!
Day 10: Eaglet escapee!
Mom and Dad are keeping a tight lid on the eaglets during a unusually cold spring, but we finally got some warm weather today and D29 took its first sojourn out of the egg cup. At ten days of age, D29 weighs around 2.1 pounds (it it is male) or 2.5 pounds (if it is female). It can't stand on its feet, but it can sit up – way up! – for feeding and shuffle around on its metatarsi. Its feet and toes are yellow, but its tiny talons are still clear. https://youtu.be/y4OEpcoMxs4
| April 12, 2018| : Day 11: Cropzillas!
Day 11: Cropzillas!
Researcher Gary Bortolotti wrote that bald eagles might gain more weight per day than any other North American bird. The majority of their weight gain occurs within the first 30 to 40 days of their lives, and is fueled by their nutrient-rich diet of meat. D29 has just gorged itself on more food than it can stomach! It will store the food in its crop until it is ready to transfer it to its stomach for digestion. This mini 'pantry' helps assure that the rapidly growing eaglets get the nutrients and calories they need, when they need them.
| April 13, 2018| : Day 12: Mom and Dad protection mode
Day 12: Mom and Dad protection mode
The eaglets are 12 days old, 10 days old, and 8 days old today. A winter blizzard introduced itself with a cold rain, which kept the eaglets under Mombrella and Poptent almost all day long. While D29 and D30 have begin to grow their insulating grey second down, they can't protect themselves from rain and snow. Mom and Dad spent time on the nest together and separately to make sure their eaglets were kept safe and dry!
| April 14, 2018| : Day 13: Dad delivers huge sucker fish
Day 13: Dad delivers huge sucker fish
Suckerfish are 'rough' fish: generally considered undesirable by humans, they have large scales, fleshy lips, and a 'sucker' mouth that is wonderful for attaching to rocks and scouring river bottoms for food. They spawn in shallow water during the spring, when water temperatures reach between 47 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The Iowa DNR tells us that males move upstream in large schools, congregating and defending spawning territories that contain gravel riffles and rubble shoals. While suckers are spawning, eagles are raising a family. Suckers make easy prey for the Decorah eagles: they are relatively exposed, there are a lot of them, they congregate below the nest, and they don't leave until spawning is done.
The late spring and cold water temperatures have delayed the sucker run this year, but we're finally starting to see them brought into the nest. They are usually eaten a little more quickly than this one was, but Mom and Dad have the pantree well-stocked and are keeping the eaglets under wraps while the weather rages.
| April 15, 2018| : Day 14: Grey flannel suits, clown clompers
Day 14: Grey flannel suits, clown clompers
After a three-day storm, the eaglets seem eager to get out of the rumpus room. We caught brief glimpses of their grey natal down and a very brief glimpse of a large, yellow footpad that looked almost too big to belong to one of the eaglets.
Eaglets don't grow evenly. In their second week of life, they experience rapid growth in features like beaks, culmens, and footpads. D29's large footpad looks outsized compared to other body features, but footpads (and middle toes, which begin growing in the first week of life) are an important part of gaining balance and coordination, and help the eaglets shuffle around the nest.
| April 16, 2018| : Day 15: Taupe-colored talons!
Day 15: Taupe-colored talons!
The eaglets' talons are changing from clear to black and growing longer. While mid-toe growth is proceeding at a steady rate, footpad growth is accelerating and legs and feet are yellowing nicely. Wings (as measured by the chord), hallux claws, and tarsi are all starting to grow longer, and the eaglets are entering the steepest part of their weight gain.
Today we got a look at D29's taupe talons, rapidly growing footpad, and longer middle toe!
| April 17, 2018| : Day 16: A wonderful warble!
Day 16: A wonderful warble!
The Modern Apprentice defines a warble as 'The action of stretching both wings up over the back simultaneously'. So why is this a milestone? As the 'wing part' of D29's brain lights up, it is learning how and why to move its wings. While D29 won't make its first flight for another 60 days or so, it is already beginning to explore and strengthen its wings and wing muscles in preparation for flight. Pre-flight, D29 will use its wings to help it balance as it learns to shuffle around the nest and stand and walk on its feet.
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