White-tailed Eagles Care For Injured Chick For Over A Year

RSPB © White-tailed Eagles Care For Injured Chick image shows chick and one of the parents sitting in their nest on the Isle of Mull.

Unusual behaviour from a mating pair of white-tailed eagles has been observed on the Isle of Mull – the parents of an injured chick continue to care for their youngster a year on.

Two white-tailed eagles have stunned experts after taking a break from breeding season altogether to care for their injured chick.

In July last year, the chick fell from its nest during unseasonably wild weather and broke its left wing. The chick’s uninjured sibling left the nest as expected in August, yet a year on the parents are still feeding the second now juvenile bird.

Dave Sexton, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds(RSPB) Mull Officer told the BBC: “I’ve checked with as many white-tailed eagles experts as I can and we’re not finding any other examples of this anywhere else, so it seems to be new behaviour and we’re watching it very closely.”

A white-tailed eagle chick will typically fledge in autumn and fly off into adulthood. However, when autumn rolled around for the injured chick, it was unable to fly for several weeks. Thanks to a plentiful supply of food and rest – courtesy of its parents – the injury healed itself and the bird finally becoming airborne later in the season.

Thanks to the support of its parents, the eagle’s wing has now mended and it’s been spotted in flight. Image: RSPB

This behaviour from partnered white-tailed eagles is unheard of but key to the injured chick’s survival

It was spotted in winter and again in spring this year by Mr Sexton who was out surveying the nests.

On first sighting, he witnessed an adult bird fly to its nest with a fish, closely followed by a grown chick still begging for food.

Despite it being time to fly the nest, this pair of partnered white-tailed eagles allowed their injured chick to stay… rent free.

Eagles are typically thought of as hard-headed and emotionless, but this unexpected level of care suggests a more nurturing side to them.

The chick’s wing mended itself in a wonky manner, but it can still spread its wings and soar. However, it can’t fly far at the moment.

Mr Sexton continued: “They do a lot of scavenging so if it [injured eagle] finds a dead deer or seal along the shore it will have a meal there and it will cope, I think.

“Whether it’s able to hunt on its own is another matter.”

It you’re eagle-spotting on the Isle of Mull this summer, you’ll recognise the injured bird by a slight bend in its left wing where the break has mended itself.

Fingers crossed for the continued patience of the white-tailed eagle’s parents and its survival this winter.

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