EagleCam Updates - 2018
February 12, 2018
(Judy Eddy photo)
As you can see, the eagles have added a few corn husks and more dry grassy material to their nest over the past two weeks. If the 2006 – 2017 nesting periods are any indication, the first egg should be laid roughly around Valentine’s Day. The eagles will lay 1-3 eggs, usually 2, typically three days apart. Both sexes will develop a bare brood patch on their chest to incubate the eggs. The female is larger and heavier than the male. Because of the winter weather, the eggs must be incubated immediately to remain warm and viable, even before the entire clutch is laid. As each egg must be incubated 35 days, the eggs will begin hatching a few days apart in mid-March, resulting in nestlings of different ages/sizes.
January 16, 2018
(Judy Eddy photo)
Over the several weeks, the pair of bald eagles at NCTC will be preparing their prominent nest for egg-laying which is likely to occur in early or mid-February. We have observed fresh plant material in the nest and the birds have been spending time roosting together. Although neither of the birds are banded, so their identity cannot be completely assured, they are presumed to be the same pair of bald eagles that has been together since 2011, with the female presumed to be the same bird utilizing the nest since 2006. Eagles typically remain paired for as long as they live and they will often return to the same nest year after year, with the birds living 20 years or more. Bald eagles reach sexual maturity, attaining a pure white head, at the age of four to five years. Bald eagles feed primarily on fish, but will also capture ducks, geese, snakes, turtles, groundhogs, squirrels and rabbits. Roadkill deer and other carrion are also readily consumed.
The bald eagle builds the largest nest of any North American bird and among the largest tree nests ever recorded for any animal, weighing up to a metric ton. During the last five years at NCTC there was ample evidence of intense territorial competition as a few adult birds have fought over the site to determine who would claim the huge structure located at the top of a 100 foot-tall sycamore.
The larger female will lay 1-3 eggs and both birds will continually incubate them during the harshest weather. The bird’s large size means that they have enough body mass and heat to incubate eggs even in sub-freezing temperatures for the necessary 35 days. They begin incubation as soon as the first egg is laid. In winter they can only leave the eggs uncovered for a brief moment or they will become chilled and the embryos will die. In last year’s attempt, the 2 eggs hatched normally but both young died within a few days of hatching. Sufficient fish appeared to be available to feed them, but both eaglets seemed to lack a degree of vigor. Most years, 2 young have been fledged from this nest.
Bald eagles nesting in our region usually stay here their entire lives, as long as they have access to open water to feed on fish. The resident Potomac and Shenandoah Valley population appears to be growing and there is great competition for the best nesting areas. The Chesapeake Bay Region is also an important stop for bald eagles migrating from other parts of North America during spring and autumn.
Thanks to all of our fans and partners for your support.
December 19, 2017
January is almost here in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, and the pair of American bald eagles at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, have been busy preparing their nest for another nesting season.
This is the 13th season that the nest has been active. The female first built the nest in 2006, and her current mate joined her in 2011. The birds are not banded with either metal or colored leg bands, so identifying the birds is a matter of close observation.
The bald eagle builds the largest nest of any North American bird and has the largest tree nests ever recorded for any animal, up to 13 feet deep, 8 feet wide, and weighing up to a metric ton. The birds typically remain paired for as long as they live and will often return to the same nests, with the birds living 25 years or more. The nest tree here along the Potomac River is a 120 foot tall sycamore that is beginning to show its age, with the main trunk holding the nest in only fair condition. We have some concern that severe weather could break this trunk, causing a catastrophic loss of the nest. So “fingers crossed.”
The larger female will lay 1-3 eggs and both birds will continually incubate them during the harshest winter and spring weather, in snow, rain and high wind. Bald eagles feed primarily on fish with an occasional waterfowl, turtle, snake, groundhog, squirrel or rabbit taken as well. Roadkill deer and other animals are also consumed.
One to three young have been fledged most years at this location, with two young fledged in 2015, out of three young that hatched. Last year two eggs were produced yielding two eaglets who both perished.
Bald eagles nesting in the region usually stay here their entire lives, as long as they have access to open water to feed on fish. The resident population appears to be growing and there is great competition for nesting areas. The Chesapeake Region is also an important stop for bald eagles migrating from other parts of North America during spring and autumn.
Join us for this new nesting season. Please don't hesitate to ask us questions.
This project is a partnership between the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Outdoor Channel, and the Friends of the National Conservation Training Center. We also acknowledge the Town of Shepherdstown, WV, the Hancock Wildlife Foundation for their support; and the many dedicated eagle fans from around the country, and the world, who have been with us from the beginning of this endeavor.