With both nests now gone, it didn’t take long to realize the immense challenge facing that Mama Eagle with three insatiable babies to feed. First, there is the shear quantity of food required. Experts say three eaglets in one nest—one “convocation” as it is called—amounts to a whopping 45 pounds of baby eagles at 10 weeks old. How can the most devoted parents possibly catch enough food to keep that brood fed? (No wonder three surviving eaglets is “extremely rare.”) But even more daunting for this feeding Mama, there is also the matter of how to hold the fresh catch, tear it into bite-size pieces, then get it from her mouth to one of theirs while balancing on a tiny tree limb. A herculean feat under any circumstance, but a particularly grand challenge considering those babies fight for food so aggressively they have already destroyed two nests! (Remember, these babies are nearly three feet tall.)
So I began to watch this scene play out time after time after time:
- Parent Eagle swoops into view, large fish in his/her talons.
- Parent Eagle lands on branch, still clutching fish (which may well still be squirming).
- Baby Eagle One, screeching and screaming, heads for that fish like a bat out of hell.
- Baby Eagle One crash lands on the branch, nearly knocking the Parent Eagle off the perch.
- (Often at this point, what an observer will see is that fish in free-fall.)
- But if the Parent Eagle has managed to hang on to both the branch and the fish, outlasting the crash of Baby Eagle One, in mere seconds will come the crash of Baby Eagle Two. And believe you me, that Baby Eagle Two comes in with the full intention of flying away with that fish.
- Next, that fish comes loose and falls to the ground, almost for sure. Parent flies off, disgusted. Two baby eagles sit stunned on that branch, screaming and squawking, until one hops to another branch close by.
- Baby Eagle Number Three stakes a good position in a neighboring tree, awaiting the next delivery of Catch of the Day.
Follow the Eagle Saga here:
Part I, 2009: Eagle nest in our back yard.
Part II: Strange Eagle activity. Eagle eggs? Babies. X2! They eat. They grow. Big. Fast. They want to fly. They are so high. We fret.
Part III: They fly! And then they are gone, and we are left here. Empty nesters on Bickley’s Pond.