WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--It’s almost time for parent eagles “Mr. President” and “The First Lady” to say goodbye to “Freedom” and “Liberty,” the now not-so-little eagles residing inside a bald eagle nest at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C.
These young eagles may fledge the nest anywhere between 11-13 weeks of age. Unfortunately, for hundreds of thousands of daily viewers, this means that there may not be much time left to watch these 11-week-old eagles inside the nest.
With more than 50 million views since it launched in February, the D.C. Eagle Cam (www.dceaglecam.org) has grown into one of the most popular wildlife cams on the internet, with viewers from more than 100 countries.
“Two and a half months ago, the world watched the D.C. Eagle Cam with awe and wonder as grey, fuzzy eaglets emerged from their eggshells. Now, these eaglets have turned into juvenile, or immature, eagles,” said American Eagle Foundation President Al Cecere. “They are about the same size as their parents, are covered in brown flight feathers, and are tearing and eating food completely on their own.”
Based on the current sizes of these two eagles, the non-profit American Eagle Foundation believes Freedom is female and Liberty is male, as females are typically larger than males when it comes to bird of prey species.
“Viewers should rest assured that if Freedom and Liberty ‘go out on a limb,’ there is nothing to worry about,” says Cecere. “For the past couple of weeks, these two siblings have been ‘branching,’ which means they’re actually leaving the physical nest and walking out and up onto some tree limbs adjacent to the nest.”
Branching, along with “wingercizing” (which is the flapping of wings in order to strengthen flight muscles and to practice slightly lifting off the nest) is what helps the eaglets prepare for their very first flight away from the nest tree, called “fledging.”
With the increased size of these two young eagles, there’s presently not much room in the nest! Parents “Mr. President” and “The First Lady” continue to bring plenty of food into the nest. Even though the parents aren’t always visible on the cams, they are always nearby keeping a protective eye on their young.
“Once these juvenile eagles make their first flights, they’ll possibly stick around the area for a few days or even weeks, returning to the nest for a free meal now and then while still learning how to successfully hunt on their own,” says Cecere.
So far, these eagles have enjoyed about 14 species of fish from the nearby Anacostia River (and have even feasted on Groundhog) brought to the nest by their doting parents. Once they get the hang of their predatory instincts, they’ll have a wide array of wild gourmet meal options from which to choose.
When Freedom and Liberty go off on their own and take to the skies, bird watchers may not realize they are bald eagles as they soar high above, since they won’t receive their full white heads and tails or their yellow beaks, eyes, and feet until about 4-5 years of age.
For a limited time, viewers can buy a special-edition DC Eagle Cam T-shirt (https://www.bonfirefunds.com/dc-eagle-cam-live-bald-eagle-nest-cam) and Coffee Mug (https://www.eagles.org/product/dc-eagle-cam-mug/). One-hundred percent of the net proceeds from the sale of these items will support the costs of operating and maintaining the cam project.
ABOUT THE DC EAGLE CAM PROJECT
After the eagle pair left their nest site in August 2015 for their annual migration, American Eagle Foundation staff traveled to D.C. to install state-of-the-art cameras, infrared lighting, and other related equipment in-and-around the nest tree with the help of volunteers and experienced tree climbers. The USDA's U.S. National Arboretum ran a half-mile of fiber optic cable to the cameras' ground control station, which connects the cameras to the internet. The entire system is powered by a large mobile solar array (containing several deep cycle batteries) that was designed and built by students and staff from Alfred State College, SUNY College of Technology and was partially funded by the Department of Energy and Environment. USNA has implemented a backup generator that will kick in if prolonged inclement weather causes the solar array to provide insufficient power to the system.