An Exploration Of Questions And Facts About The Fascinating Life Of Baby Eagles
Did you know that there are 68 different species of eagle around the world? These notorious, mighty birds of prey live in a variety of habitats and come in a variety of shapes, shades and sizes. But all eagles, regardless of the species, start out life as a tiny little birds, unable to fly and dependant on their parents.
In this post we look at some common baby eagle facts that are true across the range of species, as well as pointing out some of the differences. There are also some cute baby eagle pictures and a series of FAQs answered to round of the post. So let’s get started!
6 Fascinating Baby Eagle Facts
Baby Eagles Are Called Eaglets
All baby eagles start out their life in an egg, laid as a ‘clutch‘ within a ‘nest‘. When they break through the egg and hatch, baby eagles are called ‘eaglets‘. Once they are able to fledge the nest they become ‘fledglings‘.
As they mature, ‘eagle‘ remains the name for both female and male birds, with no separate gender determined name.
There are no collective nouns used specifically for a group of baby eagles, but in general groups of eagles are often called a ‘convocation‘ or an ‘aerie‘ of eagles.
Only Half Of Baby Eagles Make It To Adulthood
Across the range of species, most eagles lay between 2 – 4 eggs in a nest, but more commonly it is 2. Usually only around half of the eggs will survive their first year, into adulthood once hatched. Those that survive are usually the eaglets that hatch first.
The first to hatch is the first to get fed. It will grow quicker and always be at the front of the pecking order. Where food is not so easy to come by, the weaker, smaller birds will usually not make it through their first winter.
Depending on when the eaglets are born, the climate and the availability of food, nesting parents can provide everything they need for a full clutch of eaglets to survive, but this is not common.
Baby Eagles Develop Exceptional Eyesight
For a human, good eyesight is when you have 20/20 vision. An adult that maintains 20/20 vision is doing very well. Some children are capable of achieving 20/15 vision, and around 1% of people are estimated to be able to achieve 20/10 vision. Baby eagles develop 20/5 vision, which is better eyesight than even the most exceptional human eyes.
What 20/5 vision means, is that an eagle can see something 20 feet away with the same level of accuracy than an object 5 feet away. The magnification of this level of vision makes eagles amazing hunters.
From their observational perch, they can spot a prey animal roaming on the ground from up to 4 km (2.5 miles) away! It’s not just depth and range that makes their vision exceptional either, but the vast range of colors that they can see too.
The reason eaglets develop this amazing sharpness in eyesight, is because each of their eyes have two ‘foveae‘. These foveae are areas of areas of acute vision which allow them to see details from great distances. In comparison, the human eye only has one foveae.
Many Eaglets Are A Different Color Until They Mature
Some baby eaglets can look very different to their adult form, and could even be mistaken for different bird altogether.
One such example is with a baby bald eagle. As eaglets, these baby bald eagles have a completely different covering. At first, they have a white down coating which is soon replaced by a covering of light grey feathers. After about three to five weeks, they develop a brown coat of feathers, but it can be up to 4-5 years until they have their distinctive two tone coat of brown with a white head.
Some species can take up to 8 years to develop their adult plumage of feathers. The White-Tailed eagle, for example.
Baby Eagles Bang Their Beaks Together
One strange behaviour that eaglets develop early on is barging and ‘bonking’ each other with their beaks. There are a few reasons for doing this. It helps them to determine the pecking order, who is the dominant eaglet and the one that will eat first.
This display of dominance is a signal of the predatory nature they are developing. The winner will stretch their neck up for food and the loser will be submissive. There are benefits to this type of early wrestling, not just in terms of getting the first food, but in developing their skills too.
The banging and barging to knock each other over helps them to develop their muscles, motor skills and coordination.
Baby Eagles Get Water From The Food They Eat
Baby eagles don’t need to drink water like we do. They don’t generally use it for washing their coat either. They get most of the water they need from absorbing water from the food that they eat, and they clean their feather coats, along with their parents, through grooming with their beak.
Some eagles learn to bathe in water as they mature. The bald eagle for example is known to bathe often especially after eating. It’s not known for certain why they do this, but perhaps it is to aid with digestion as much as it is to stay clean.
Baby Eagle FAQs
What Is The Lifecycle Of A Baby Eagle?
Once mated, fertilised eggs are usually laid in a nest around 40-50 hours later. From here, the eggs take around 35-45 to incubate before hatching. Some take longer than average, such as with the large Harpy Eagles that take around 55 days before they hatch.
Juvenile Eaglets grow pretty quick physically, but can take years to fully reach adulthood. At around 10-14 weeks they should be ready to fledge the nest. Most will have reached skeletal maturity by this stage, though gaining their adult feathers will take much longer.
Before leaving the nest, the young eaglets pick up and manipulate sticks, play tug of war with each other, practice holding things in their talons, and stretch and flap their wings.
Even the slowest growers will reach their adult size by 20-26 weeks. The parents will be encouraging them to fledge at this stage, but even once they are taking flight they will stay with the nest for a few more months.
Some, such as the crowned eagle, might stay in the nest with their parents for up to 10 month, but most are independent from around 3-4 months.
Most will have their adult plumage by 4 to 5 years of age, but some can take as long as 8 years. They are fully mature adults when these feathers come in.
The average lifespan of an eagle in the wild, is between 14 to 35 years depending on the species. Bald eagles for example, have an average life expectancy of 20-30 years, whereas the crowned eagle can expect to live for around 14 years.
What Do Baby Eagles Look Like?
Baby eaglets look very different from adult eagles, often only identifiable by their distinguished beaks. Most are born with a thick brown, white or grey down coat. This is replaced by juvenile feathers and over several years they will develop their adult plumage.
Juvenile birds often develop dark heads and tails first and various levels of mottled feathers on their bodies. This changes in stages, particularly during molts until the adult coat is achieved.
How Big Do Baby Eagles Grow?
All baby eaglets start out very small compared to the big birds they will become. Even the largest babies are comparatively small, weighing as much as 100 grams.
Some examples are Harpy Eagle babies, which start out around 100 grams in weight and around 5-6 inches long at birth. They grow to between 4 – 9 kg and between 86.5 to 107 cm (34-42 inches) long with a wingspan of 176 to 224 cm. Females tend to be larger than males.
Golden eagles are similar size at birth to the harpy eagle, and bald eagles are a bit smaller. They start out at around 4-5 inches at hatching, growing to around 70-90 cm (29-36 inches) long with a wingspan of around 2 meters long as adults.
In another example, the Tawny Eagle grows to around 65 – 72 cm (25.6 to 28.3 inches) long and around 1.6 – 2.4 kg in weight.
What Do Baby Eagles Eat?
From their very first day out of their shell, baby eagles are fed meat. While most birds regurgitate food to feed to their young, eagle parents simply tear strips of meat of a prey animal and feeds it to their eaglets. It is the father that does most the feeding at first, while the mother protects the nest and her young.
Feeding usually happens up to 8 times a day at first. After a few weeks, the parents will stop feeding their eaglets directly and just leave a prey carcass in the nest for the babies to feed themselves.
Their diet does change from region to region depending on the availability of different prey animals. In general however, eagles eat a lot of fish, and other medium sized birds like ducks and coots. They will also happily eat rabbits and hares, or even foxes and domestic cats.
Golden eagles have even been known to attack animals as large as deer fawns. They will also quite happily steal another animals kill, poaching a dead carcass when the opportunity arises.
Where Do Baby Eagles Live?
What Are The Predators Of Baby Eagles?
Baby eagles are birds of prey, and that makes them apex predators at the top of the food chain. Well that’s what they are as they grow up, but as baby eaglets, they are more vulnerable to predation. In the nest, if a raccoon happens upon an unguarded nest they will happily take advantage of the opportunistic meal.
Hawks and owls may also be brave enough to snatch at a nest, or a fledgling eagle while they are still small enough.
Wolverines and black bears are another threat. Though its rare for one of these animals to be able to catch an eagle, there is evidence and even footage of bears scaling trees to get their paws on an eagle nest.