Monthly Archives: March 2013

Feather Development

I just got back from vacation (spring break), so thanks to everyone for being patient while the blog and gallery updates were put on hold.

Our eaglets are doing very well and becoming more mobile each day. We currently have a plan to zoom the cam out around April 4 (that’s when our volunteer will be free), so we can see more of the nest and more of the eaglets as they begin to walk around.

Among the most noticeable changes in our eaglets are their very big yellow feet, which you can see in the photo posted here. Also notice their crops (on their chests), which hold extra food. These pouches get rather large as the eaglets feed, and the eaglets can make use of this food after the meal is over and their stomachs empty out.

Blackwater NWR Eaglets

Our older eaglet is getting a large set of dark brown pin feathers on its head, back, and wings. New feathers — or pin feathers — develop inside a shaft that is fed with blood (why they’re sometimes called blood feathers). The waxy shaft protects the feather until it’s fully grown, and once that happens, the eaglet will pull or rub the shaft off and the new feather will unfurl. Over the coming weeks, we’ll see both eaglets slowly developing their first set of feathers, and once that process is almost done, the eaglets will be ready to begin branching in preparation for their first flight.

Our photographer friend Woody Dawson follows an eagle nest along the Susquehanna River, and he sent us the following photo showing an immature bald eagle in the nest with its wing raised. This wonderful photo gives us a great look at the pin or blood feathers running along the underside of the eaglet’s wing. This photo also gives you a better sense of how big our eaglets’ wings and beaks are becoming.

Pin Feathers

Eagles have different types of feathers. The feathers we can see on the outside are contour feathers, and then underneath those are the soft downy feathers, which help keep the birds warm. In addition, there are different types of contour feathers — such as the primaries (strongest of the flight feathers) and the secondaries (feathers that help with soaring). If you’d like to learn more about bird feathers, be sure to visit the Cornell University feather page.

Currently I’m working on an update to the Eagle Cam Gallery, and we’ll also be opening the Osprey Cam Gallery very shortly. Thanks to those sending in their photos.

Until next time,
Lisa – webmaster
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Categories: eagle cam, eaglet, feathers | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

An Afternoon with the Eaglets

Our two eaglets are doing well and they’re growing very fast.

We have a video from Sunday that shows some of the changes taking place. If you look closely in the video you’ll notice the chicks seem to have a light-colored cap on their heads — that’s the last bit of baby down they have remaining. On the rest of their bodies you’ll see their second coat of down coming in, and it’s darker in color. Also note that they seem to be scratching a lot — their pin feathers (first set of feathers) are slowly coming in, and it makes them itch. Soon you’ll see black areas developing on the chicks’ bodies — those will be the pin feathers getting larger.

In the video we also see a couple sessions of flapping as the chicks begin to exercise their wings for that special day in May or June when they’ll take their first flight. Also note their yellow feet. The feet will be among the first places on their bodies that grow to adult size, so soon they’ll have very large and awkward looking feet that will seem out of proportion to the rest of their bodies.

One cute sequence in the video shows a chick playing with a piece of cornstalk until Mom moves it out of the way. We see the chicks occasionally tending to the nest — moving grass and sticks around — which are skills they’ll one day use as adults when it’s their turn to tend to the nest.

While watching the cam on our website, we also caught another set of photos showing our father pitching in and helping with the meals. It’s nice to see him still helping out even with only two chicks.

Both parents feed the Blackwater Eagle Cam chicks

We wanted to pass along a technical note. Our new web cam software has a setting for uploading images to our web server, where we link to them from our web pages. That setting is not giving us the number of images we expect, which is why you sometimes see dropped images. We’re tweaking those settings and also the refresh rate on the cam pages — trying to find a sequence that works so there is an image on each refresh. We appreciate your patience as we fiddle with these settings in an effort to get a smooth performance on the cam pages.

Also, we wanted to thank those folks who have been sending in their photos from the cam. We’ll do a gallery update before Wednesday.

Until next time,
Lisa – webmaster
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Status of the Third Chick

Two Chicks on Blackwater Eagle CamThroughout the day on Saturday, we saw meals where the third chick barely moved or didn’t move at all as the other two chicks fed. There has been a large quantity of food in the nest over the last several days. At one point the nest contained three fish, two birds, and a mammal, so the parents have been doing a fantastic job providing for the family.

In addition, the mother eagle did a great job protecting the chicks during the rain storm. Although the youngest chick was not old when the storm hit, he had absorbed his yolk sac before hatching and had a couple meals before the storm arrived, so he should have had enough nourishment for the short term.

In the last feeding on Saturday before our infrared (night vision) kicked in, we saw a meal where the third chick was no longer visible in the nest cup. The large amount of feathers in the nest were from a duck that the father brought late in the afternoon. Once the feathers cleared a bit and the chicks began to eat, the youngest chick was not visible (see photo). The other two chicks had bulging crops (a pouch on their chests for storing food), so there was no shortage of food for the family.

This morning before the cam went down, the third chick was still not visible, and in two feedings on Sunday since the cam returned, we still have not seen a third head or body at mealtime, so it appears our third chick did not make it.

Hole in 3rd Egg on Blackwater Eagle CamI looked at our Eagle Cam chart, and in the two previous years where we had three chicks (all of them survived), the youngest chicks hatched five days after the oldest — this year the chick arrived a little over six days after the oldest. Maybe that was just too much of a difference.

In addition, we thought we saw a hole in the third chick’s egg on March 2, but the chick didn’t hatch for another 48 hours. Was there something wrong with the chick physically that slowed down the hatching and compromised the chick’s ability to survive once it hatched? We just don’t know, but it did seem like a slow hatch.

The good news is that our remaining chicks seem healthy and are getting great care from the parents; in fact they’re almost the same size now. In addition, we haven’t seen any sign of the intruder drama that ruined our season last year, so that is also good news.

A couple cam watchers have asked about the third chick’s body and what would happen to it. Biologists have studied eagle nests that have blown down and discovered dead chicks in them from previous seasons, so there’s a chance our youngest could just get buried in the nest. It’s also possible one of the parents physically removed it from the nest, as they sometimes do with unhatched eggs.

We want to thank all those who have been following our eagle family, cheering on our chicks, and sending in photos and questions.

We also want to thank all those who came out to our Eagle Festival yesterday and helped make it a tremendous success. We were happy to have you at the Refuge.

Until next time,
Lisa – webmaster
Support the Blackwater Cams
Contact Us

Categories: eagle cam, eaglet | Tags: , | 9 Comments

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