Cape Breton's Magazine

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Page 20 - Life of the Eagle

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1973/12/1 (973 reads)
 

ward. Suddenly at a few minutes after four o'clock they seemed to awaken and moved a few steps apart...then the bird on the left began to flap its wings until it faced west, vihen the other also turned, bringing them in tandem, one directly behind the other, and standing thus they continued flapping for four minutes together; this ex? ercise over, one of the Eaglets walked up to a carcass of the previous day and began pulling at it with its bill, and after renewed flapping it muted over the side of the nest. After a brief pause the stretching and flapping began again, to be repeat? ed at minute or half-minute intervals, until they finally came to rest; in twenty minutes from the time of awakening both Eaglets were standing close together and in the same place where they were first seen. At 4:20 AM, one of the young Eagles began to preen and ten minutes later it started upon a lively tour about the eyrie, jump? ing and flapping;and now the (other) feeding bird, as if stimulated by its nest-mate would occasionally pause, flap its wings and go through the characteristic treading movements with its feet, much as in later life all Eagles do when rending their prey, At 4;45 one of the youngsters began to caper around with the wings raised above its back; with a broad jtimp it cleared the eyrie from side to side and upon landing knocked down so many loose sticks they fell in a shower....When the young bird is 6- 7 xveeks old, the flapping becomes so vigorous as to take it a few inches off the floor of the eyrie...at 8 weeks the Eaglet is able to rise 2 feet or more, and in the course of another fortnight, particularly if there is a stiff wind, it will raotmt up to 10 or 15 feet and begin to hover. By the time he is ready for indepen? dent flight, he is a swarthy giant, as large as or larger than his parents; he has a dark bill, hazel eyes, sports yellow 'boots', and carries a formidable set of talons which are now black. In the last week of nest-life, when it seemed that every day might be the last, the Eaglets would hover for a full minute and go even beyond the confines of the nest, but always with talons down to facilitate a safe landing...." About the last two weeks of nest-life, "all direct feeding of the Eaglets ceased. With one exception the time spent at the nest was reduced to a few minutes or se? conds, the birds coming at great speed, dropping their quarry and making off at once for a favorite tree. The young Essies move about freely in the neighborhood of the nest after their flying ability has been proved, and may be seen perched beside their parents, or trailing after thera. They also form the habit of returning to their old home, either alone or with their parents, for more or less protracted vi? sits; but it may be doubted if they ever receive food at the nest after having once gained their liberty. So far as is known young Eagles are never permitted to use the home-territory for breeding purposes tinless by chance, at some future time, one should become mated to a parent; according to the testimony of other observers, af? ter three weeks or more of serai-independence, they are effectually driven off by the old birds." Edward Gittens in a 1968 thesis, "A Study on the Status of the Bald Eagle in Nova Scotia," reported an estimated population of 200-250 adults, 50-75 juvenals. He lo? cated 50 nests. In 1967, of 15 active nests 3 were successful in producing a total of 4 birds; and in May, 1968, a survey of 17 active nests revealed 11 with young birds • 16 young of which 15 fledged. Shooting is generally considered the largest cause of Eagle deaths. Many people do not realize the Eagle is protected by provincial law. But even to visit a nest may cause a nesting failure. The Eagle does not have any predator other than man. Forest spraying is not carried out in Nova Scotia; but agricultural biocides are in use, and while Eagles don't come in direct contact with these they do eat fish in whom agricultural poisons are eventually concentrated. Four nest trees x'ere reported cut down during logging operations 1966-67, and the Cape Smoky fire is believed to have destroyed at least 2 nests. There is a general trend downward of anadromous fish (gaspereaux, smelt, etc) • and in those areas the Eagle population has declined. For example, Gittens says 15 to 20 years ago 10-15 birds would be seen at the Mira River in spring; now with the decline of the gasperaux, for 4 years (.as of 1968) none xvere seen and inactive nests were found. But Dr. Austin Cameron told us that he is seeing juvenals on Cape Breton about 1 siting in 10 • and says that that can be talcen as evidence of continued successful breeding on the island. Our thanks to staff members of the library of the Nova Scotia Museum, Halifax; the Xavier College Library, Sydney, and the University of Toronto Library, for help in obtaining materials for this article. And thanks to Oliver L. Austin, Jr., editor of The Auk, for his permission to use work of Francis Hobart Herrick that appeared ori? ginally in that publication between 1924 and 1933. Skiro.ule Sales and Service Maclnnes ESSO 7 Days a Week INDIAN BROOK Gape Breton's Maga2ihe/20 YAZER BROS. LTD. Two Friendly Clothing Stores Sydney and Sydney Mines
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