DN13 is 11 days old and DN14 is 9 days old. In their second week of development, the two will gain about two pounds, experience rapid growth in features like beaks, culmens, and footpads, start replacing their white natal down with thicker grey thermal down, and begin exploring the nest. Although they aren’t yet standing on their toes, they are able to sit up – way up! – for feeding and shuffle around on their metatarsi. Their eyes are wide open and fit more comfortably in their eyesockets, features like brow ridges are beginning to appear, and their legs and footpads are turning from pink to yellow.
Researcher Gary Bortolotti wrote that bald eagles might gain more weight per day than any other North American bird, although the majority of their weight gain occurs within the first 30-40 days. This rapid weight growth is fueled by their nutrient-rich diet of meat. We watched DN13 and DN14 chow down on fish, more fish, a few furry UFOs, and yet more fish! Little crops swelled and our well-fed eaglets began broadening their world as they explored the North nest, causing no end of worry to watchers!
While babylet battling hasn’t entirely subsided, it will become less intense as pecking orders are established. The eaglets are alternately hitting, submitting, and quitting to cuddle in the nest cup, grow, and wait for more food. They never have to wait very long: Mr. North and DNF could keep a whole fleet of flying fishwagons full! The menu looked like this...
April 4 10 7 (DNF) 3 (MRN) fish
April 3 12 9 (DNF) 3 (MRN) fish
April 2 14 8 (DNF) 6 (MRN) UFO and fish
April 1 14 11 (DNF) 3 (MRN) fish
March 31 14 8 (DNF) 6 (MRN) UFO and fish
March 30 16 6 (DNF) 10 (MRN) fish
March 29 12 11 (DNF) 1 (MRN) fish
In the week to come, we’ll be looking for:
- Preening: When birds preen, they remove dust, dirt and parasites from their feathers and align each feather in its optimum position. Their exploratory downy nibbles mark an important first step on the road to feather care.
- Thermal down: Thermal down begins to emerge in the second week! A hatchling eaglet’s fuzzy white natal down doesn’t assist thermoregulation, aka controlling one’s temperature. Denser thermal down provides more insulation and helps nestling eaglets keep their body temperatures at a relatively constant 105’ish degrees.
- Painting the crib rails and babysitting branch: For an eaglet to really shoot poop, it needs to be able to ‘stand’ on its tarsi, point its little rump up in the air, and squirt! As silly as it sounds, the ability to shoot poop out of or almost out of the nest marks an important developmental milestone as the little poopcassos become more coordinated and stronger!
- Cropzillas! We’re seeing little cropzillas already. As the eaglets are able to handle bigger bites, little crops swell to what looks like bursting! DN13 and DN14 will store the food in their crops until it is ready to transfer it to their stomachs for digestion. This mini ‘pantry’ helps assure that the rapidly growing eaglets get the nutrients and calories they need, when they need them.
By the end of their second week of life, our little bobbleheads will be almost a foot tall! Enjoy eaglet earholes and egg teeth while you still can – their earholes will soon be covered by down and their egg teeth are wearing away.