Once again, Paleo and Calusa (dubbed last May by Tommy Barfield fifth grade students) have two new eaglets in their nest. The first egg hatched on Jan. 18 and the second on Jan. 21.
The Marco Eagle Sanctuary is sporting a new look with the recent installation of a rope barrier, sign and benches. This new natural park setting offers visitors a unique opportunity to enjoy the eagle family. Sitting on park benches, visitors may watch the eagles’ activities in their own serene natural environment. Setting up with telescopes on the sidewalk or viewing through binoculars, visitors have a more close up encounter with the eaglets’ fuzzy little heads as they play “dueling beaks” in the nest under the adult female’s close supervision. The adult male is seen making frequent flights to the nest tree with fish dangling from his talons to feed his family.
Growing very rapidly, the eaglets are already beginning to lose their downy gray feathers which soon will be replaced with black feathers. Eaglets are almost adult size by age 10 weeks. Around 12 weeks, the eaglets can be observed standing on the edge of their nest flapping their wings. Once the eaglets fledge, they will hang around the nest and use it as a feeding platform for two or three weeks. The adult eagles coax the fledglings away from the nest by ceasing to feed them. They teach the fledglings to hunt for rodents on the sanctuary property, and then take them further from the nest to catch fish. The wider their hunting circle becomes, the less time they will spend at the nest. The young eagles then fly away to unknown destinations. The adult eagles return to the sanctuary, but do not return to the nest tree until the next nesting season.
This past week, sanctuary observers were surprised and delighted to witness the return of two juvenile eagles believed to be former sanctuary fledglings. The adult eagles however, were not at all delighted by their return. As the juveniles attempted to move into the nest tree, there was considerable noise and ruffled feathers observed as the adult eagles chased the juveniles away from the nest and the eaglets.
The Marco Eagle Sanctuary is located at 665 Tigertail Court on Marco Island. The bald eagle, our national symbol, is a state and federally protected species requiring a 330’ protective barrier radius around the nest tree. The Marco Eagle Sanctuary Foundation (MESF) will continue to protect the bald eagles and preserve their habitat as an eco-park by hosting the Second Annual NEST FEST in April. Additional information may be obtained by visiting the MESF Website, www.marcoeaglesanctuaryfoundation.org.
Linda J. Turner is the director of operations for the Marco Eagle Sanctuary Foundation.