Eagle Cam Update

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources header

Eaglets banded on tax day to symbolize "thanks!"

The three popular chicks on the Nongame Wildlife Program EagleCam were banded yesterday- on tax day, and Nongame's 40th Birthday! We wanted to symbolize "thank you" to all who donate to our program, on and off of their tax forms.  The loon-line on Minnesota's tax form is celebrating its 40th birthday this year and it just so happens that our eagle chicks were the perfect age to band them - on our Fortieth Birthday.  The donations to our program funded the purchase of this camera.  Donations also fund the people who help keep it running, as well as many other projects and research and researchers doing important Nongame work all over Minnesota. So, to all of you - a big THANK YOU! All of your donations are always matched one-to-one by the critical habitat license plate fund, which makes an even bigger impact for Nongame Wildlife. 

About the Banding 4-18-17

It was a rainy day, but as soon as the bucket truck showed up, the rain stopped!  Most of us still got pretty wet, but the chicks got new jewelry on their right legs.  The light-weight, silver identification tags are numbered and will be recorded with the Bird-banding Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.  The numbers on the band will help identify them if they ever nest where there is a camera, or if they end up injured or found dead in the future.  Reading the numbers and contacting the lab will trace their birth-place, sex and age, as well as determine cause of death.  Keeping track of this data is very important for the future of the species.  If many of the same bird species or in the same area die and we can find the cause of death, maybe an existing threat can be eliminated from their environment, such as DDT was many years ago.  For more information on the bird banding lab and the importance of banding birds, please see their website here.

In addition to banding, measurements of their halux (the hind toe), the culmen (upper ridge of the upper mandible), and of the blood feathers on the tail were recorded.  Each of these measurements helps determine the approximate sex and age of the chicks. So, #1 chick was hatched on March 9th, and is a female.  Chick #2 and #3 both hatched on March 11th and were a female and a male.  The bands chosen differ in size due to the sex. The females are 1/3 larger than the males, so the female bands are larger. They are banded at about the age of 6 weeks because at this age, they are still too young to jump from the nest, yet they are old enough to be handled and to fit them with the appropriate band.

After the banding, the chicks were quickly returned to the nest and the parents also returned within 10 minutes. All three eaglets were being fed within an hour.  The parents are not aggressive toward the crew.  They tend to soar above or perch in a near-by tree until the chicks are returned to the nest, which usually happens after the bucket-truck is gone from the area.  The parents might be getting used to this activity, because the bucket was barely moving away from the nest as the female returned to count bodies and toes. 

The chicks will continue to be fed by the parents for the next few weeks - until fledging. Eventually, the eaglets will begin taking their own bites of food from the cache that is dropped off by the parents.  They will become much more physical - exercising their legs and especially their wings.  Later, they will begin to "branch".  They will move to branches close-by, stretching their wings and testing their flying abilities.  By mid to late June, they should begin to fledge (leave the nest).  They will continue to visit the nest until they become experts at flying and hunting for their own food.  Some of the chicks from past years are still seen at the nest occasionally!

Our sincere appreciation goes out to the private bander Mark Martell, and to Xcel Energy for providing their staff and resources for this project.  Without them, we would not be learning about the private lives of these eagles and watching the camera every season.  Thanks to all of you who make this effort a success!

Pictures and video are attached and also located on our Facebook page: Minnesota Nongame Wildlife Program.