Our Wildlife “Hummer” Tours provide a guided adventure into the natural world here at the historic Santa Margarita Ranch, including a stop near a bald eagle nesting site.

On that note, Margarita Adventures naturalist Bailey Christenson captured these photos from a distance via spotting scope this week, as we love to observe these magnificent birds while trying not to disturb them during this delicate time.

The young eaglet we see in the nest is close to fledging. Bald eagles fledge at about 10 to 14 weeks. Prior to their first flight, nestlings will flap their wings in the nest or while jumping to an adjacent branch in a behavior known as branching. Fledgling eaglets practice attaining flight before actually taking off from the nesting area. First flights are generally downward glides from the nest to a lower branch or the ground.

The juvenile plumage is complete in 10 to 14 weeks, by which time they are generally fully grown. Some scientists believe a juvenile may continue to grow for a short time after fledging. In the first five years of life, an eagle’s age can be determined by its plumage. Juvenile eagles go through five distinct annual color morphs. Once an eagle achieves maturity, their plumage remains the same throughout their life, and there is no visual clue to determine the eagle’s age.

However, the juvenile can appear larger in the first year because of longer flight feathers which aid the fledgling as they are learning to fly. After the first molt, the wing feathers will be the same size as an adults.

So there you have it, the lowdown on the early life of a bald eagle. Now join one of our tours and come see for yourself!

Click here to book your best California zipline tour or wildlife tour. This post belongs to our SPOTTED series, featuring the rich animal kingdom that inhabits Santa Margarita Ranch.