By the age of nine weeks, an eaglet is showing great mobility and more self-sufficiency. After 10 to 12 weeks, the eaglet has thoroughly explored the nest bowl and its perimeter, and it’s time to learn how to fly.
Branching is a critical developmental step on the path to independent flight. Prior to branching, an eaglet spends time jumping, flapping, and actually “hovering” off the nest, learning to get wind under its wings. When branching, an eaglet will perch on a branch in their home tree. From there, they can flap their wings, jump off and land on a lower branch or back at the nest. This behavior strengthens their flight muscles and improves their agility and landing skills. The adults may encourage this behavior by withholding food. Eaglets may be observed exercising their wings, but they may also be perched on a branch out of camera range.
Branching typically lasts seven to 10 days, when it is especially vital to keep the nest free from any human disturbance that could cause premature fledging. An eaglet that leaves the nest too soon may need to be cared for by the parents on the ground, where they are at greater risk of predation. But if all goes well, branching will help the eaglet take its first successful flight and spend the next few weeks honing its flying and landing skills and learning to forage for food.