The first of the three Hays eaglets took flight Friday on national Bald Eagle Day, designated by Congress to celebrate the successful recovery of the bald eagle in North America.
At 10:14 a.m., eagle watchers monitoring live video from a wildlife camera watched as one of the three eaglets hopped off a tree branch behind foliage and exited the picture in its first flight. People gathered on the Great Allegheny Passage trail reported the adolescent eagle soared near the nest accompanied by its mother.
“Yes, we can confirm this. It’s a fledging,” said Bill Powers, president of PixController, the security camera company that donated the camera in partnership with the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
A look at eaglet just before it leaves the nest
Video of a Hays eaglet just before it took off. Its last perch before flight is obscured by the tree. (Video courtesy of PixController; 6/20/2014)
“Looks like one has indeed fledged,” said Bob Mulvihill, an ornithologist with the National Aviary. “I have good reports that the adult female flew down to [the fledging] and has stayed perched over it.”
After first flight, fledglings generally do not return to the nest.
For weeks the turkey-size eaglets have been “branching,” or hopping with flapping wings among the tree branches surrounding the 5-feet-diameter nest, high in a tree overlooking the Monongahela River in the Pittsburgh community of Hays. By late Friday afternoon two eaglets remained on or near the nest. It was not known if the first to fly was from the first egg laid Feb. 19.
The fledging marks the adult couple’s second successful nesting. They fledged one eaglet in 2013.
Flying, the young birds will find, is easier than landing.
“While they get some practice at the nest, the true test comes when flying at speed to a perch,” said Rachel Handel, communications director of the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania. “For some birds, landing is cumbersome at first. All of that forward momentum needs to be controlled to land securely on a perch without too much speed and with just the right amount of weight on their feet. If not balanced correctly, the bird will carry too much momentum in their upper body and will topple over the perch — their feet will stop, but their head and chest will keep going.”
At two additional Allegheny County bald eagle nests, first flight seems imminent. With no cameras monitoring the sites, researchers watch the old-fashioned way — from a ground blind with binoculars. The Game Commission reports at least one egg hatched in a nest on private property in Crescent. Audubon observers believe there is one eaglet in a nest overlooking the Allegheny River in Harmar.
Mr. Powers said plans are underway to mount a camera over the Hamar site next year. Some $2,500 of an expected $5,000 tab has been raised through donations by eagle watchers, and about half of the system has been built. Donations can be made by calling PixController at 724-733-0970.
“It’s just amazing the interest this has generated,” said Mr. Powers. “Next year I’d like to take this to a bigger level with more participation with schools and assisted living facilities.”
Watch live video of the Hays nest eagles at www.post-gazette.com/baldeagles.
John Hayes: 412-263-1991, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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