Sadly the two Decorah North eaglets have died from a black fly attack. But the three Decorah eaglets were born earlier and have a better chance at survival.

Here's the latest on them from The Raptor Research Project’s Sherri Elliott:

It’s hard to believe how quickly the eaglets are changing at 8 weeks yet we see it daily in physical appearance, behaviors, skill sets and personalities. Also remarkable are the changes we have seen in Mom Decorah who is rewriting the single mom’s handbook after moving on after Dad’s disappearance fulfilling double-duty parental roles over the past 5+ weeks. She shows her strength and determination daily doting on her ddd’s as well as her prowess in purveying provisions, caring for the eaglets and teaching them the lessons and skill sets needed prior to branching and fledging. She’s also had to defend her nest and territory from interlopers and while she has had a guardian and protector in her male friend, UME, (unidentified male eagle), she established her own boundaries to her social acceptance of him … something that he has abided by keeping his distance from an overhead or nearby perch. All of the twists this season are not anything we have experienced before and documenting is giving us incredible insight into how Mom has adapted to her new normal.

Just since last Monday (5/21), Mom has brought in a whopping 69 fish … including the 6 already today by 2:45pm. Sometimes she is met with a mantle and grab or a resounding and demanding squeee chorus. She gives them a few minutes to figure out how to unzip the fish and get to the meat of the matter, and is there if needed to slice, dice, and hold out bites for them to grab. Other times she’ll eat the fish herself, or start to, showing them that food is not to be wasted and to get while the getting is good enticing them to come and get it. They are pretty proficient now holding down their found nestovers and self-feeding and those skills will sharpen even more when they are challenged by siblings who will be ready to steal right out from under their talons while vocalizing to keep others away. And Mom knows to get out of the way quickly too … she’s had feet, toes and talons grabbed and bit many times over the years by overeager eaglets, but it’s what we expect to demonstrate their pirating proficiency.

Physically, the eaglets have more of a blue-black beak and dark brown eyes. They are as big as Mom and sometimes even appear bigger. All the downy gray fluff has been replaced with feathers and they are stately and full statured when perched on the nest or the periphery of the rails. They have moved past the period of most rapid growth and peak energy when they are fully feathered, showing their transition from structural growth and feather growth although flight feathers will continue to grow. The feather growth is so rapid that a standing eagle might not be dropping wings to cool off, but rather drooping wings since the developing feathers are blood filled and heavy. The entire set of primary and secondary feathers grow at the same time with each adjacent feather follicle filled with the necessary blood to grow the shaft and veins, and each grows with the side protection of the neighboring feather. At fledge, all of these feathers will be ‘hard penned’.

Flight muscles are not fully developed until after fledge but are strong enough for flight. They will work on strength and conditioning now during hoppersizing, wingersizing, and using gusts of wind to adjust wings for practice soaring, gliding, and testing those flaps adjusting to downdrafts and updrafts. We should see more exuberant hopping in place to strengthen leg muscles for the rebound push they need to grab air, and when combined with wing flapping to get some sustained lift we may see ‘helicopter’ hovering. Excited little ‘wingers’ might also show us a vertical hop to one of the side tree branch bases or bouncing off back and forth between them.

Coordination and dexterity are also being fine-tuned as they pounce on fluff or sticks on the nest, trying to pick them up as practice for grabbing prey, and will also be seen trampling the tarmac and prancing around with found objects showing their skills at cargo loading a treasure. Hold on to your seats when they start to take a running leap to perch on the periphery of the crib rails!

Personalities continue to evolve as we watch and study behaviors. D29 still is assuming the self-assigned role of being in charge when Mom is not present, D30 likes to spend more than its fair share lounging, and D31 is the class clown exhibiting some ‘did you see that’ glances to siblings or the camera after a practice stunt. They’re all pretty good buddies too, each cozying up to another to stand and watch the world go by, or pile into a puddle for any slice of shade. They are all so fun to watch, so enjoy every minute … our time with them in the nest is ticking by. And, just to prove the point, the big little ddd's are now sleep standing at night, marking another milestone for them.

Glen Loyd lives on the Rock River in Janesville 15 days a month. He is a former public information officer for Wisconsin Consumer Protection, publishes a weekly consumer protection blog. Glen is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff. His opinion is not necessarily that of the The Gazette staff or management.

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