One of three world-famous bald eaglets from a treetop nest in Decorah, Iowa, on Tuesday was banded and fitted with a GPS transmitter that could enable scientists to track its whereabouts for years to come (see the female bird's post-banding release in the video).
Millions of people became enamored with the eaglets and their doting parents, thanks to a high-definition web-cam that spied on them day and night since the chicks emerged from their eggs as in early April.
Now they're as large as their parents, and although they've made their maiden flights they're remaining near the nest and still accepting food from the adult eagles.
Experts with the Raptor Resource Project maintained the web-cam -- and will do so again next season, when new eggs are laid -- as the eaglets and their parents became perhaps the most-scrutinized wild critters on the planet.
Based on the success of Tuesday's operation, project scientists are considering banding and attaching GPS transmitters to all three eaglets "to help us determine where they go and whether or not they survive," reads a statement on the RRP Facebook page.
Realizing that folks have become fond of the eaglets and are concerned about whether the banding might affect their chances of surviving in the wild, the RRP statement added that project manager Bob Anderson thoroughly researched the issue "and was not able to find any evidence that banding affected the survivability or reproductive success of eagles -- a finding supported by our own years of banding young falcons."
Elsewhere in the statement is this passage: "We understand that people are concerned about the eagles and our motivation for banding. However, at our core, we have always been about science, conservation, and education. Banding the eaglet will not harm it and will aid the service of all three areas."
In a recent interview with Pete Thomas Outdoors, Anderson said placing a transmitter on at least one eaglet will allow fans of the birds as well as biologists to track its progress.
"Every day we'll be able to tell the world that this bird is in Missouri, Mississippi or Des Moines," Anderson said. "We will have a website that will follow this bird for years to come. The most common question I get is, 'What happens to the babies,' so we're going to try to answer that question."
The RRP will soon provide a link on its Facebook page that will allow viewers to track the newly-banded eaglet's movements via Google maps.