A 14-week-old bald eagle chick whose life at Big Bear Lake has played out on a webcam flew for the first time Tuesday morning.
The chick, named Simba, spread its wings and departed the nest shortly before 6:30 a.m., the U.S. Forest Service said in a news release.
The flight was captured by the webcam operated by environmental group Friends of Big Bear Valley.
“You feel like a proud parent: the kid has headed off,” said Robin Eliason, a wildlife biologist for the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service. “But there are definitely some mixed emotions turning on the camera and there’s nobody there.”
At long last, the Big Bear bald eagle has fledged! He took his first flight at 6:19 a.m.— San Bernardino National Forest (@SanBernardinoNF) July 23, 2019
He will next remain in the area, learning to fly as his parents continue to care for him. Then, over the rest of the summer, we should see him around the lake being taught how to hunt. pic.twitter.com/crG1wZpbju
Young bald eagles generally leave the nest when they’re 10 to 12 weeks old, making this chick “a little bit of a late bloomer,” Eliason said.
Simba didn’t go far, spending the rest of Tuesday within “squawking distance” of the webcam’s microphone, Friends of Big Bear Valley said in a Facebook post.
“We could hear him ‘squeeing’ — he makes a certain ‘squee’ kind of call,” Eliason said. “He’s letting his parents know where he is: ‘I’m hungry. I’m here.’
“I kind of expect that he’ll stay close to his parents for at least a couple months because they’re going to continue to feed him while he’s honing his skills as a hunter,” she continued.
The chick may then move to a different part of the lake or another area in the San Bernardino National Forest or beyond, she said.
Simba is tagged with a leg band to assist biologists in monitoring his movements.
The area around the nest will remain closed until Aug. 1 to avoid disturbing the eagles’ habitat. Off-limit areas include the lower portion of the Grays Peak Trail, the Grout Bay Picnic Area, part of Grays Peak Road and all of what’s known as Lumpy Road.
Simba was one of two bald eagle chicks that hatched in mid-April in the nest on the northern side of Big Bear Lake. The other eaglet, Cookie, died at 6 weeks old of suspected hypothermia after a late-season storm brought freezing rain and snow over Memorial Day weekend.
The eaglets became the subject of internet fame as their births and development were closely monitored through the live-streaming camera. The nest cam was installed about four years ago as part of an effort to engage the public in preserving the ecosystem of the Big Bear Valley, where bald eagles established nesting territory in 2012, Eliason said.
“The fan club that this family of bald eagles has, including some of us, is surprising and exciting,” she said. “It’s been really fun talking to people who are eagle-maniacs and totally glued to their computer monitors or TVs watching these guys.”