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The zoo is home for growing family of wild eagles

Posted by: Elizabeth Bacher, Communications
Photos by Dennis Dow, Woodland Park Zoo

Here at Woodland Park Zoo, we share the habitat with all kinds of native wildlife such as bald eagles.  Two eagle fledglings, called eaglets, just left their nest above the zoo’s elk yard a few weeks ago. They’re only about 15 or 16 weeks old right now and already as big as their parents, but their overall dark coloring sets them apart from adults. 

Juveniles don’t develop the distinctive bald eagle features—white head, yellow beak and yellow feet—until they’re 4 or 5 years old. The eaglets’ long flight feathers, which help steady them as they learn to fly and hunt, often make them look even bigger than adults for the first year. But they’re still completely dependent on mom and dad right now.  

Soon, the parents will leave the nesting area to take advantage of fall salmon runs in places like the Skagit and Columbia River systems, and they won’t return for several months. The youngsters will be on their own then, and might hang around the zoo for an extra week or so before taking wing to join other juveniles and adults. The first winter is the most dangerous and difficult part of a young eagle’s life, so the lessons they learn now are important for survival. 

Until then, mom and dad will continue to hunt and provide food for the eaglets through the end of summer – giving them a few more weeks to watch and learn. That means there’s still time to catch the whole eagle family flying above the Wildlife Theater area next to the elk yard – or to see the eaglets gulp down a nutritious meal of rabbit, fish, crow or seagull. How do we know? Zoo staff – who say the pair look very well fed – have seen them eating on the ground in the elk yard, and sometimes find the remains of whatever was on the menu. #goodeagleparenting