The end of July is nigh. Scalla and Anna – our resident eagles here at Mull Eagle Watch have a 12-week-old chick in the nest and it is just about ready to start learning to fly.
White tailed eagle young are generally ready to fledge, or take their first flight, by 10-12 weeks of age. (Young golden eagles typically fledge around 10 weeks of age.)
The juvenile plumage is complete in 10-14 weeks, by which time they are generally fully grown.
By this time their downy feathers are replaced by juvenile feathers. At the end of this time the adults will start encouraging them to fly.
A few weeks ago when we were watching the nest, we could see the chick periodically stretching alternate wings, then over time stretching both at the same time.
After a while it started beating both wings very excitedly. Imagine being that young eaglet – realising that you have these very large and extendable wings to utilise.
As this young bird grows and develops it will be seen exercising its wings on the nest or on a nearby branch several days prior to fledging. Eaglets practice with short take offs and landings on and around the nest, gaining strength and improving their agility and landing ability.
As we stand at our hide, a good five hundred meters away from the nest, we can see the chick flapping its wings in the tall scots pine with our naked eye. Not unbelievable as it’s wingspan is about two meters already. This chick is the youngest of all the eaglets on Mull, so it is the last to fledge. It will be taking its first leap out of the nest in the next few days. So make sure to come down soon to witness this rare sight.
(Last years Juvenile, picture taken at Loch Don, by Will Plane)
It takes practice for the young birds to become proficient at flying. Landings are almost always awkward and somewhat conspicuous for newly fledged eagles.
Practicing flying is crucial for the young birds, as many try to fly prematurely, especially when startled or flushed from the tree by other wildlife and people who get too close. This, practicing in the nest behavior, gets more frequent the more confident the chick gets. The closer to fledging the more adventurous the chick will become it truly is a very exciting time.
Other wildlife we have had at Craignure includes, the colony of seals out on the rocks have got very adorable seal pups now. We also have Common and Arctic Tern chicks, Ringed Plover chicks all very close to us as we walk along the path to the Eagle hide.
This is such a special time for our wonderful White-Tailed Eagle family. So do come down and marvel at nature’s abundance with rangers Lizzy and Caoimhe.
VisitScotland Craignure iCentre on 01680 812556 to book.
Thanks for reading,
RSPB Community Information and Tourism Officer