On 15th June 2007 Johnny Wee had the good fortune to observe and document on memory card the first flight of a young White-bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster). The nest was a huge pile of sticks firmly wedged between the fork of a tall albizia tree (Paraserianthes falcataria). The single chick was ready to fledge and standing on the nest unsure of itself. A parent bird was on a nearby branch, watching, urging and encouraging (left). The other was also around, just as vigilant. The young eagle walked out of its nest on to a branch and looked around hesitantly (below left). The parents continued to watch silently, flying to and fro but never too near the young one. The youngster surveyed the surrounding and prepared to lunge by moving up to a higher branch where it could make its first flight (below right).
Slowly raising its wings, it finally plunged into the empty space below, taking off in its maiden flight (below). It was a success, landing some distance away in another tree, with the two adults following. The entire process took about five minutes.
The first plunge into flight is never easy for a chick about to leave the safety of the nest. But leave it must. The parents will see to it. They will refrain from feeding it, perching nearby with food to induce the chick to leave the nest. Hunger usually does the trick and eventually the chick will make the first plunge. It may land below the nest but once it gains confidence, the fledgling will slowly take longer and longer flights. And eventually it will become independent…