Bethany's resident baby bald eagle takes his first flight

Photo Credit: COURTESY PHOTO: STEVEN R. HALPERN - Steven R. Halpern captured this image of the eaglet on its second day of flying. The bald eagle baby fledged on July 24.The baby bald eagle turned 13 weeks old July 24. He hadn’t read the research stating bald eagles typically fledge (fly) between 11 and 12 weeks of age.

At 7:15 a.m., after practicing lift off for several days, he flapped his wings and took off, circling the nest in Bethany that’s been the only home he’s known and where his parents have delivered meals multiple times a day.

Dennis Manzer, who has followed the eaglet’s progress, was there. So was Bob Kindley, who lives nearby and had been stopping by for a little over a week. “I kind of thought something was going to happen. It didn’t fly far,” he noted.

Instead, after its initial flight, the eaglet returned to the nest, ate food delivered by its parents, and took a nap. Later in the day, it repeated the process: fly, eat, sleep.

Having had an extra week to bulk up seemed to give the eaglet more power for take-off. It flew to the ground in the wetland and later flew up to the nest, propelled by strong wings. The female parent delivered dinner, and the eaglet ate and took another nap.

People continued to pull into the parking lot of the Latter-day Saints church on West Union Road near 185th Avenue and ask what Manzer and other spectators were looking at.

The next day was a repeat of day 91. By now, the eaglet had been on local television and appeared in the Beaverton Valley Times and Hillsboro Tribune. Still, many people who stopped still asked, “What are you looking at? I’ve been driving by for weeks...”

Some who kept the vigil almost as faithfully as Manzer had to leave. One watcher delayed her vacation by three days in hopes of watching the bird fly. From the boat she and her husband sail in the San Juan Islands, she told new-found friends, “I’m so jealous!” when she learned the bird had taken flight the day after she left.

Anne Goetz, a retired Hillsboro librarian, like most of the regulars, had passed a number of times before stopping to see what the spotting scopes were focused on. Now that the bird has fledged, “I think I’m just going to stop for 10 minutes. But soon, it’s an hour or two. It’s fun to see the birds and to meet so many interesting people,” she added.

Dana Kuiper, who volunteers at Audubon Society’s wildlife care center, is another regular. “I’ll probably keep coming for a month until he’s fully capable of feeding himself,” she said.

By then, said Manzer, the bird and his parents will move on — if they’ve survived the hazards of living on the edge of suburbia. “For us, it’s a party, it’s educational. For the birds, it’s life and death.”

Manzer plans to take a break from birding, and check out wolves and bears in Montana. But that won’t happen until he arrives at dawn to find no eagles, hopefully several weeks from now.

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