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He is the sea eagle chick who would not fly the nest….until now.
The chick, which hatched in a nest in Tiroran Community Forest managed by South West Mull and Iona Development, is being compared to a teenager reluctant to leave the comfort of home.
Now he has finally taken the plunge from his lofty abode, the chick has flown into the record books by staying for a further five weeks in his nest beyond the date when he should have taken his maiden flight.
Sea eagle chicks are capable of flying aged just 10 weeks but generally spend a lot of time practicing, jumping up and down on their huge stick nest and flapping their broad 2.5 metre wings building up flight muscles and strength in preparation for the big day. They have usually all fledged by the age of 12 weeks.
But this chick, hatched by parents Fingal and Iona, was still in the nest at 17-weeks-old.
‘Islanders, tour guides, foresters and eagle-watchers wondered if he was ever going to fly,’ said Dave Sexton, RSPB Scotland’s Mull Officer.
‘This is the longest time I’ve known a sea eagle chick stay in the nest for. I did start to wonder if he was okay and capable of flying. We had lost his sibling due to a lack of food and then infection earlier on in the season. As there were originally two chicks in the nest we had hoped to take one of them for the Isle of Wight reintroduction project as the community forest trustees had kindly given permission to be part of this exciting scheme.
‘However, on the day of collection, one chick was found dead in the nest and a post mortem confirmed a lack of food then a series of infections had caused its death. We watched the surviving chick very closely to ensure all was well and he seemed to be growing well with an increase in the food supply coming in.
‘At about that time, in June, Fingal and Iona visit a common seal pupping area in Loch Scridain and regularly come home with talons full of energy and protein-rich placenta for tea. We were also fortunate this year to have Tilhill Forestry managing the forest nearby. They always go the extra mile to ensure the eagles are safe around the harvesting operations and their haulage drivers and staff kept an eye on the eagle chick too. So they had plenty of people looking out for them. But week after week when I would have expected the youngster to fly, he just didn’t and I became increasingly concerned,’ said Dave.
But at last, now aged four months old, the chick has taken the plunge and was spotted and photographed on the forest floor by wildlife guide Bryan Rains of Wild About Mull.
The chick has also been seen in flight so all is well, added David.
Young sea eagles will spend the first few weeks out of the nest still being provided for by the adults and will then start to follow them further afield. By the New Year, most juveniles will be on their own and fending for themselves, not reaching maturity an settling down to breed until they are five-years-old.
The Mull Eagle Watch project which shows people sea eagles at their nest site had to shut this year because of Covid-19 restrictions but hopes to be back open somewhere on Mull in 2021.