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Hanging Out and Taking Selfies: DC9 Becomes a Teenager

Contact: Autumn Canaday
Email: Autumn Canaday

July 5, 2022

My, how they grow up so quickly.

DC9, the eaglet born at the U.S. National Arboretum (USNA) this spring, is now considered a fledgling, which would translate in human terms to a young adult eagle. He no longer spends his days in the nest with mom and dad, LOTUS and Mr. President. His days are now spent practicing some much-needed skills for the next phase of his life.

"This is a crash course in flying and hunting from his parents over the next few weeks," said Dan Rauch, wildlife biologist for D.C.'s Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE). "He will be on his own this fall and winter, which makes this a key period of learning to increase his chances of successfully becoming a breeding adult."

This summer will be an opportunity for DC9, also known as Takoda, to practice landing and maneuvering through the air under his parents' watchful eyes. Once he becomes a breeding adult eagle, he may return to his "home" area, but experts at the USNA say it will be difficult to track him to his new nest or location. DOEE banded his ankle a few months ago, but the band does not include a GPS-level tracker. If you're wondering about his appearance, he'll be covered in his rocky-road ice cream feathers for the next few years. The well-recognized white head and tail feathers that we normally associate with an eagle indicate that the bird is of breeding age, which usually occurs at five years of age. 

DC eaglet DC9 recently found the webcam placed near the family nest, and we now have a selfie of the fledgling eagle. (Photo courtesy of National Arboretum Eagle Cam A)

So how are mom and dad feeling about their almost empty nest? Well, a human's empty nest experience differs from a wildlife empty nest experience. According to Susan Greeley, agricultural science research technician at the USNA, there are no signs of sadness or supervision or a loose curfew.

"Breeding is very hormonal for them, so at this time their hormone levels are tapering off. LOTUS and Mr. President will go about their off-season business of eating and just enjoying 'quiet' time," Greeley said. "They are less territorial over their nest, as well."

The pair will begin their bonding activities and rebuild their nest this fall as their hormone levels start to increase. They'll also begin to defend the nest and the whole process will start over again.

In the meantime, there are other eagles throughout the DC metropolitan area who are also active, with about 17 in the area between Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, south to Piscataway Park/Mount Vernon.  You can also click here to check out DC9 and his parents in the nest.

The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in agricultural research results in $17 of economic impact.