Eaglet Bonking

Baby eagles, or eaglets, engage in something called “baby bonking” with their sibling.  Two eaglets will compete for food and use this physical bonking of heads to gain advantage and therefore get more food.

It is survival of the fittest and is wired in to their nature, though with endangered species it can be difficult to wrap our minds around, since we want to ensure survival of every member of the species.  Sibling rivalry is wired in to us, even as with eagles, not just as a form of survival, but to gain advantage of preference by our parents.

One eagle cam that I watch has shown changes in how the eaglets interact the past couple years.  Two years ago the father eagle would catch food and bring it to the nest, then the mother would feed the eaglets.  The siblings competed very heavily, to the point where there was concern one would push the other from the nest.  Last year, there was only one eaglet and no one to compete with.  This year, something different has happened.  Both eagle parents have been taking on the responsibility of feeding.  The eaglets have not been bonking each other!

Even in eagles, the impact of shared parental responsibility can have an effect on the behavior of the children.  As people, we need to compete to establish and understand our “rank” or place in leadership where we feel most comfortable.  Eagles don’t benefit from that competition past the nest and immediate needs of survival, so if survival can be attained without this competition, it shows a greater depth and evolution of their instinct.  These eagle parents have learned how to re-establish the functions of their family and how it works together to better ensure the survival of their children.

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