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Hays eaglet takes flight

Mary Ann Thomas
| Thursday, June 15, 2017, 11:42 a.m.
The Pittsburgh Hays eaglet takes its first flight away from the nest on Thursday, June 15, 2017.
Courtesy of Annette Devinney
The Pittsburgh Hays eaglet takes its first flight away from the nest on Thursday, June 15, 2017.
The only young eagle produced in this year's nesting season at the Pittsburgh Hays bald eagle nest soars over the area on Thursday, June 15, 2017, making its first flight away from its nest.
Courtesy of Annette Devinney
The only young eagle produced in this year's nesting season at the Pittsburgh Hays bald eagle nest soars over the area on Thursday, June 15, 2017, making its first flight away from its nest.
One of the Pittsburgh Hays bald eagle parents spends what could be the last moments with its fledgling juvenile eagle, which took its first flight away from the nest on Thursday, June 15, 2017. The young eagle soon will leave to find its own territory.
Courtesy of Annette Devinney
One of the Pittsburgh Hays bald eagle parents spends what could be the last moments with its fledgling juvenile eagle, which took its first flight away from the nest on Thursday, June 15, 2017. The young eagle soon will leave to find its own territory.

The bald eaglet known as the “Miracle on Carson Street” took its first long flight Thursday morning, sailing among the trees above the Monongahela River in Pittsburgh's Hays neighborhood.

Its parents had lost their nest tree and first-laid egg during a windstorm in February, dimming the prospects for a successful nesting season.

But the Hays couple persevered, quickly building a new nest close to their old one and laying an egg within a week of the devastation from the windstorm.

The Hays birds are the first bald eagles to breed in Pittsburgh's city limits in more than 150 years. The pair is in its fifth year of nesting. This year's eaglet is called “H7” because it is the pair's seventh eaglet since they started breeding.

Photographer Annette Devinney of Penn Hills captured a shot of the bird's first known long flight early Thursday. Although the bird was documented to be out of the nest at least a day or two earlier, Devinney got one of the first views of the bird flying a distance.

When she arrived, she could see the young bird flying among the trees on the hillside of the nest and quickly got out her camera.

“She took a nasty landing,” Devinney said. New fliers such as H7 are often clumsy in their early landing attempts.

“She was hanging upside down on a limb but she did a chin-up and quickly got her feet and perched upright,” she said.

A bird's first days out of the nest can be perilous. It must learn flight control and its surroundings. It's clueless about the dangers.

“No bird knows how to fly until it does it the first time,” said Jim Bonner, executive director of the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania.

“It is that proverbial leap of faith that tells them to fly, but their abilities need to be developed and honed,” he said.

Eagle watchers on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, where there is a good view of the aerie, saw H7 out of the nest on Wednesday, according to Dana Nesiti, an amateur photographer from West Homestead.

A day earlier, the youngster was thought to be out of the nest but could not be seen through the densely leafed-out trees, he said. The bird could be heard crying for its parents.

Nesiti photographed the eaglet perched below the nest on Wednesday, but he didn't see it fly.

“The female was underneath with part of a fish,” Nesiti said. “She flew up and fed it on the branch.”

By all accounts, the youngster was well-fed. Both parents caught at least five fish on Wednesday, according to eagle watchers.

The female was seen Thursday morning feeding the young bird a catfish near where the old nest was blown down in the spring.

PixController, the Murrysville company which has had a live nestcam on the Hays bald eagles for the last four years, tried unsuccessfully to capture the young bird on camera.

Although the new nest is too far away from the webcam for close-up views, PixController has kept the camera streaming to capture any activity.

“It's quite amazing we saw this bird hatched and then fledge a little earlier than previous eaglets from the Hays pair,” said Bill Powers, PixController's president and CEO.

PixController will move the camera and equipment closer to the new nest site next year.

“We are going to hope for the best view ever of this pair's nest,” he said.

The Hays eaglet's parents will feed and keep an eye on their youngster for at least a month, according to Bonner.

At some point, if the young bird does not strike out on its own, the parents will encourage it to leave.

After leaving their parents, eagles will wander in search of food and new territory. When they are old enough to breed in four to five years, they typically nest miles away from where they were hatched.

Two Harmar eaglets in a nest above Route 28 are expected to fly from their nest by the end of the month, Bonner said.

The birds have been seen on Audubon's live webcam “wingersizing,” or stretching and testing their wings to get ready for the day they take off.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4691, mthomas@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MaThomas_Trib.

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