Here are a few things you might not have known about America's national animal. Wochit


Sleep. Wake up. Flap your wings. Eat. Grow. 

That's pretty much the life of two famous North Fort Myers eaglets nearly two months into their lives. 

They've grown tremendously since they broke through their shells on Dec. 26 and 27 and will soon be comparable in size to their parents, if not bigger. 

"They’re relaxing or they’re up wingersizing (flapping their wings), trying to get better at feeding themselves and attacking mom and dad when they bring in food," said Dee Kelly, an avid eagle watcher who was taking photos of the birds Thursday. 

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Bald eagles are among the most popular of American critters, and seeing them anywhere is a thrill for many folks. 

But nearly 120 million people across the world have been able to watch this family over the past six nesting seasons, which run from October until May, thanks to a camera system that conveys the eagles' lives 24 hours a day. 

Nearly 5,000 were watching the family on a recent morning. 

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This year's eaglets, E10 and E11, have avoided much of the drama that has revolved around this eagle nest over the past six years. 

The original couple was Ozzie and Harriet, but Ozzie was injured and eventually usurped by a younger, more fit eagle. 

Ozzie was injured in a fight with M15, Harriet's current mate, and went through treatment at the Center for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, or CROW, on Sanibel.

He was released but suffered fatal wounds after another series of fights with M15. 

Besides the love triangle, the family's been attacked by great horned owls, eaglets have fallen out of the nest and even become entangled in fishing line. 

The cameras are operated by the Pritchett family at their real estate offices along Bayshore Road. 

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"The eaglets are growing and developing right on track," said Virginia Pritchett McSpadden, a member of the family. "They are 8 weeks old and exploring more of the nest, exercising their wings and starting to jump and practice flying as much as they can. We should see some branching here in the next few weeks as they get more comfortable with their muscle movements and control."

Branching is when an eaglet moves from the nest to branches in the next tree. 

Pritchett McSpadden said the parents spend much of their time to feed themselves and the two growing eaglets. 

"We've seen a steady stream of food delivered to the nest," she said. "This week's menu has been a mix of fish, bird and bunny."

Jim Beever, with the Southwest Florida Planning Council, has studied eagles in this area for decades and said Harriet and M15 are providing the basis for the next generation. 

"They were certainly getting fed well, that’s why both of them have been able to make it so far," Beever said. "(For now) they’ll be exercising the muscles as they develop and their flight feathers will fully develop before they’re ready to go. It’s normally 11 weeks from hatching to their first flight. And then they’ll stay with their parents for another four to 11 weeks before they’re ready to take off."

Beever said young eagles become proficient at finding food and feeding themselves through a combination of watching their parents and instinct. 

"The parents show them where to find fish," he said. "I’ve seen young eagles stand on oyster bars while the parents bring food to them there. Or they’ll be in other trees in the foraging areas, so they see the parents hunting." 

He said the nest also becomes very crowded as the young ones grow. 

"They’re eating and bulking up and building their muscles," Beever said. "At this point they’re going to be eating and eating and eating and sometimes they get bigger and heavier than their parents." 

Kelly and others gather at the North Fort Myers Church of the Nazarene to watch the eagles, which nest in a field several hundred feet from the church parking lot. 

"To me, the best is when they’re going from branch to branch and they’re flying around. That’s my favorite part," Kelly said. 

Then again, she's a bird fan in general. 

"I’d watch an owl if I had one close by to watch," Kelly said. "It’s just fascinating to watch Harriet, or dad use that enormous beak to tear off that tiny piece of food to feed that eaglet; to watch those bites get bigger and the (eaglets) get bigger and bigger."

Connect with this reporter: Chad Gillis on Twitter. 

American bald eagle

Appearance: Adults weigh 8 to 10 pounds with a wingspan of 6 to 7 feet. Body and wings are dark brown. Head and tail distinctly white; eyes, bills and feet are vibrant yellow.

Feeding behaviors: Diet consists mainly of fish, although eagles will eat mammals and, occasionally, road kill. Eagles are notorious for stealing fish from other eagles and raptors, such as ospreys.

Reproduction: Incubation lasts 35 days and the birds fledge, or leave the nest about 11 weeks later. If there is more than one egg, the eaglets will hatch in the order they were laid.

Population: There are an estimated 9,789 active breeding pairs in the 48 mainland states, with 1,133 nests occurring in Florida, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

When observing: Biologists recommend staying 700 feet or more away from an active or potentially active nest.

Sources: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,,

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