Once most of their wing and tail feathers are developed, the eaglets can finally leave the nest. First flights usually occur at 9 or 10 weeks of age and are preceded by vigorous exercising and flapping.

When a male and female are in the same nest, the male may fledge first. Sometimes the adults will force the eaglets to fly. When chicks leave the nest they usually glide to a nearby tree or stump, returning to the nest tree frequently and continuing to be fed by the adults.

At first the eaglets have difficulty landing on tree limbs. However, if they land on the ground, they need open space to flap their wings to become airborne.

While eaglets improve their landing and flying skills, they depend on their parents for food. The adults will bring food to where the eaglets are perched.

Eaglets will stay close to the nest and nest tree during the first few weeks after fledging. Within one month after fledging, eaglets will soar and drift over the water.

The eaglets are poor hunters and may scavenge on dead prey instead. As the chicks develop their flight skills they harass the adults and try to take fish from them. This behavior helps eaglets learn to forage and be independent and will last into September.

At 17 to 23 weeks of age, the bond between the adults and their young fades and the adults no longer tolerate harassment from their offspring. This is time when the young eagles leave the territory, following the prevailing winds to more northerly shorelines and water bodies in search of good feeding grounds. (From Fledgling Facts from the US Fish and Wildlife)

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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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