EagleCam Updates - 2012
June 4, 2012
Both eaglets have finally experienced freedom. The first eaglet fledged from the nest on Friday June 1, and the second, just at around 7:00 this morning, June 4. We have not seen much feeding activity from the parents in the last week. Could this be a sign that they are helping "push" their young from the nest? Even though both chicks are now flying, they will typically stay with their parents for another month. They have started taking short flights while their primary feathers begin to grow in, and their parents will continue to provide all of their food. However, they must learn how to hunt, and will only have the rest of this summer to learn. It has been another very successful summer, with two eaglets now fledged, and abundant food throughout the season.
May 3, 2012
The eaglets are growing quickly and are able to flap their wings and move around the nest readily on their sturdy feet. We have seen instances where the birds are able to feed themselves a bit from fish carcasses left in the nest. The birds must survive only on moisture from their food and on hot days the birds are panting excessively to keep cool. The young are helping in the upkeep of the nesting material, including moving large sticks and grass lining. Sometimes the adults bring in fresh green leafy branches. We have seen the adults bring in mammal remains and most recently, birds and a turtle to feed the young, supplementing the mostly fish diet.
April 9, 2012
The eaglets are now at a point where their bodies are thermoregulating, and no longer need to be brooded by their parents. Both chicks are growing very quickly and, at just three weeks old, are both larger than the size of a full grown chicken. Although there doesn't seem to be as many fish in the nest as when they were younger, this may be because the chicks may be growing enough where they are eating larger amounts and at a more rapid rate. At one point, food was so abundant, each of the parents, simultaneously, had one chick at each end of the nest, and were each feeding them a different fish, so that neither of the chicks had to compete for food and had the full attention from each of the parents. Have any of our viewers seen this take place with other eagles? This was a first for us. Another interesting observation is that, when the chicks are lying down, they seem to lie down on their sides like a puppy, instead of an upright position like their parents. As the food remains start to collect flies, and although we cannot smell through cameras, we can only imagine what the aroma may be like; the parents have begun bringing in new nesting material. Before we know it, we'll see feathers replace their down, and their wings will begin flapping, in preparation to fledge.
March 21, 2012
The second egg hatched on Friday March 16, 2012. Both eaglets are moving about the nest and food seems to be plentiful. Because the eaglets were born days apart, they are of different sizes. If there is enough food, both young will thrive. If not, the larger may monopolize the food. So far, fishing has been great! Many viewers are wondering what the black spot on the male's head is. This black spot is the remains of the black head feathers juvenile eagles have. At around 4 years old, the juveniles lose the black head feathers, are replaced with white and are sexually mature. This tells us this male is somewhere around 4 years old.
The young birds have soft grayish down which will soon be replaced with black feathers at around 5-6 weeks. According to the American Bald Eagle page, it can take 24-48 hours for an eaglet to work its way out of the egg using its egg tooth. Once newly hatched, eaglets are born with wobbly legs that are too weak to hold their weight, and their eyes are partially closed, limiting vision. Their only protection is their parents.
Eagles feed their young by shredding pieces of meat from their prey with their beaks. The parents gently coax the chicks to take a morsel of meat from their beaks. As you can see from the webcam, the parents will offer food again and again, eating rejected morsels themselves, and then tearing off another piece for the eaglets.
The young birds grow rapidly, they add one pound to their body weight every four or five days. At about two weeks, it is possible for them to hold their heads up for feeding. By three weeks they are 1 foot high and their feet and beaks are very nearly adult size.
March 14, 2012
Eagle Update: Wednesday March 14 Afternoon Posting:
The male brought in 2 fairly large fish on Tuesday while the female was incubating the eggs. The female appeared to pant heavily as she brooded the eggs in the hot sun. On Wednesday, a crack appeared in one egg and by around 3:30 PM, the hatchling had struggled completely out of the broken shell as the male stood by either looking closely at the hatchling or re-arranging sticks. He eventually settled on the hatchling and the unhatched egg to brood them. Later around 4:30 PM he got up to feed on the fish remains from the day before, while the hatchling lifted its head, opened its mouth and moved its wings next to the unhatched egg.
March 2, 2012
On Saturday, February 18, at approximately 3:45pm a young adult eagle intruded on our NCTC nesting pair. The pair successfully fought off the intruder until about 6pm and maintained control of their territory. The 2 eggs are expected to hatch around the middle of March.
Unfortunately, for the eagles nesting at Blackwater NWR in Cambridge, MD their 10-day old pair of eaglets died February 26, due to, what was believed to be an intruder. You can view the footage on YouTube. Craig Koppie, Eagle Coordinator/Raptor Biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Chesapeake Bay Field Office climbed the tree and examined the nest contents. After reaching the top of the nest, two dead eaglets were observed and collected. Craig states:
"There are several possibilities that could have caused or potentially led up to the cause of the nest failure. Factors could include 1) weather event or disturbance during night hours that caused the adult to get off the nest thereby chilling the young, 2) condition during gestation and development of embryo, 3) prey contamination, 4) parental issue- behavioral problem or condition leading to the killing of offspring or lastly, intraspecific competition whereby a rival eagle displaced one of the resident eagles and killing their young, which is a domineering trait of an intruder over taking a nest and/or territory.
"Competition between eagles for choice nesting areas or the lack of suitable habitats for newly formed pairs have led to increased conflicts resulting in death or injury to adults including aggressive combat or eaglet killing at nest sites. Clearly, eagle cams have captured moments in the lives of eagles that we could not have imagined otherwise. Although these situations appear to be acts of violence and difficult to observe, we must appreciate the fact that it is nature's way to insure that the strongest and most fit individual of each species continues to thrive."
Although we never want to witness a nest failure on the Eagle Cams, like what occurred at NCTC last year and this year at Blackwater, it is encouraging that eagle numbers are on the rise throughout the country. Bald eagles are an endangered species success story, having been removed from the Endangered Species List in 2007.
February 7, 2012
We got our first egg of 2012 in the late afternoon on Sunday Feb 5. Thus far, the weather has been good, the egg has stayed warm and dry, and food is being delivered to the nest. Here's what Bent says about eggs and incubation:
"Two eggs almost invariably make up a full set for the bald eagle, sometimes only one, and rarely three; in two or three cases four eggs have been found in a nest, but these may have been the product of two females. The eggs vary in shape from rounded-ovate to ovate, the former predominating. The shell is rough or coarsely granulated. The color is dull white or pale bluish white and unmarked, though often nest stained. Very rarely an egg shows a few slight traces of pale brown or buff markings."
We can expect another egg over the next day or so; and if we are lucky, another one towards the weekend.
"The period of incubation is about 35 days, according to the most careful observers, though it has been otherwise estimated. Both parents assist in incubation and in the care of the young. Mr. Nicholson tells me that at every nest he has visited after dark he has found both birds at the nest, one incubating or brooding and one perched near it. In one instance the incubating bird remained on the nest until the climber nearly reached it."
"In conducting the shifts a rather definite formula was observed. The sitting bird would give a sharp chitter when wishing to be relieved; the mate, if within hearing, came to the eyrie, moved up close, and the exchange was quickly made. If the eggs were left for only the shortest time, they were carefully covered with a great quantity of grass, stubble, and other convenient nest material, and the scrupulous covering and uncovering process would sometimes last from five to ten minutes. . . ."
more at birdsbybent.com
February 2, 2012
Our eagle pair have been tending to the nest and we are getting very close to the time that we could see some eggs. Nesting competition continues to be an issue here in Shepherdstown, as we have seen at least one intruder come through in the past week or two. The healthy population of bald eagles in the region is causing more competition for nesting habitat. You can see a video of the intruder being violently ejected from the nest by one of the resident birds at this link:
We will be keeping a close eye on happenings here at NCTC and will keep you posted as events unfold. We all hope for a nesting season that is quieter than last year, but only time will tell.