Eaglets G, H and K at Clinton Lake are sticking close to home, but they're exercising their wings in preparation for leaving the nest.
Jackie Wedel, park ranger with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said the three juvenile bald eagles, born in mid-March, probably will take flight around the middle of June and then head out on their own after about another month.
"They're starting to flap their wings and they're getting real big," she said.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials banded the three eaglets April 29, said Dan Mulhern, a biologist with the agency. A volunteer tree climber from Topeka shimmied up the dead cottonwood that holds the nest and placed the young birds in heavy denim bags. He handed the bags down to Mulhern and two assistants, who banded the eaglets in a boat at the base of the tree.
Each bird received a silver band from the fish and wildlife office and a purple band, signifying they were banded in Kansas, Mulhern said. The tree climber then returned the eaglets to their nest.
Of the 14 eaglets that hatched at Clinton Lake since 1989, fish and wildlife officials have banded eight. The male adult eagle, which returns to the nest with his mate each year, was banded in 1991.
The bands help track the eagles once they leave the Clinton area. In fact, an eagle from the first nest of babies at the lake was identified by his bands in March at Hillsdale Lake, southeast of Douglas County. His female companion also wore bands on her legs, which identified her as a 3-year-old native of the Sutton Research Center in Bartlesville, Okla.
Mike Watkins, Kansas City district wildlife biologist with the corps, said the pair has a baby of their own now. He first spotted the eaglet April 16 and estimated it was 4 to 7 days old at the time. At 6 to 7 weeks old, the eaglet spends much of its time hopping around the edge of the nest and stretching its wings, Watkins said.
"When it's 10 or 11 weeks old, it will probably fledge, or fly, from the nest and it's getting ready to do that," he said.
Mulhern said he won't try to band the Hillsdale baby because the commotion could frighten the young parents away from the nest.
"It's a first-year nest by a very young pair of adults so we don't want to disturb them," he said. "Being such a young pair, there's a lot of factors working against them anyway."
Biologists may consider trapping and banding the bird after it fledges, he said.