A couple of weeks ago a WVEC eagle cam viewer asked if the eaglets were itching since they kept pulling at their feathers. The moderator on duty at the time properly responded that the eaglets were “preening”. Feather care is an essential and instinctive behavior for all birds. Bald eagles spend their entire life outdoors. When at rest you will frequently see these eagles preening which is the systematic arrangement of their feathers with their bill. For those feathers like those on their head that can not be reached by their bill, you will see them scratch with their talons.
Preening involves the application of a waxy, fatty secretion from the preen gland that is located at the base of the tail. Feathers would become brittle from age and weather exposure without the regular application of this oily substance. This action cleans the feathers and preserves their moistness and flexibility, and provides waterproofing necessary to withstand a life that is lived entirely in the out-of-doors.