Baby eagles are small and helpless when they are hatched, but they don't stay that way for long. All eagle parents take very good care of their young, and this includes feeding the eaglets all the food they can eat. As a result, the chicks grow very rapidly. Golden eagles, for example, weigh only about three ounces at birth (85 grams). But they weigh forty times as much only 45 days later.
On this page, we've shown how eagles bring their young into the world. Other types of eagles build different kinds of nests, and there may be some differences in the way they raise their young. But the story is basically the same for all baby eagles.
Bald eagles and other large eagles build their nests to last. The main part of the nest is usually made of big sticks.
Many types of eagles use the same nest year after year, and every year the nest gets larger. Once a nest is built, it may be used by pairs of eagles for a very long time - perhaps hundreds of years on some cases. As one pair of eagles dies, another pair may take over and continue to add to the nest. In this way, some nests may get to be as big as a small truck.
Some type of eagles, may have two or three nests. But they only use one at a time. The area of the nest that will be used for raising chicks is usually lined with leaves, or something else that is soft.
Finding a safe place is the main thing when eagles build a nest. If there are no tall trees around, many eagles will build their nests high up on the sides of cliffs. Golden eagles actually seem to prefer cliff nests.
After mother eagles lay their eggs, they may sit on the nest for a long time before the eggs begin to hatch. the Golden eagle shown here may have to stay on the nest as long as 50 days. The job is sometimes shared by the father eagle.
When an eagle chick is ready to start hatching, it can be heard calling from inside the egg.
After it starts calling, it takes the chick about 15 hours to peck the first hole in the egg. There is a special "egg tooth" on the chick's beak to break through the shell.
Once the first hole has been made, the chick starts working harder. But it may still take another 35 to 40 hours for it to break out of the shell completely.
By the time the chick is all the way out of the shell, it is usually very tired. Most chicks lie still and rest
for a bit, while they dry off and their feathers begin to fluff up.
From the time they hatch, it takes eagles 65 to 75 days to get ready to fly. During this time, their white downy coats are replaced by darker feathers.
When there are young eagles in the nest, both of the parents have to do a lot of hunting. The chicks never seem to get enough to eat, and their parents are constantly taking off to look for food.
Baby eagles don't drink milk like baby humans. Instead, their parents give them little bits of meat. The parents feed newborn chicks by gently placing the bits of meat in their mouths.
The eyes of all eagles have an extra eyelid called a nictitating membrane (NICT-tuh-TATE-ing). This can be used to clean the eyes or to protect them. Eagle parents often pull the membranes over their eyes when feeding their young. This keeps the chicks from accidentally damaging the eye as they lunge for food.