Our third egg was due to hatch Saturday, and for a few days we had seen what looked like a hole in the egg, but the hole has not been getting bigger, so it seems safe to assume something wasn’t quite right with the chick and it didn’t make it. It’s hard to know the reason, but sometimes an egg just doesn’t hatch due to a developmental problem with the chick or possibly a problem with the way it was positioned in the egg.
We’re not sure what will happen to the egg. Either the parents will remove it or it might get buried in the nest. For those who have been watching the Carolina Raptor Center Eagle Cam you’ll know that they had two eggs that didn’t hatch this season, so Savannah and Derek — the parents — removed them.
Speaking of the Carolina cam, the parents are non-wild eagles, and it really is amazing that they breed successfully in captivity. The cam site features some excellent close-up photos of this year’s new eaglet, which you can see in their galleries. I’ve republished one of them here showing their eaglet at about the same age as our chicks (five days old). If you look closely, you can see the egg tooth on the end of the eaglet’s beak, which is what the chick uses to break through the shell when hatching. It falls off after a short while.
Right now our chicks have their first coat of down, which is soft and gray, so they look like little cotton balls. Soon they will develop a darker gray coat that will be coarser and will protect them from the elements. This darker coat will then be replaced by their first set of feathers, which will come in slowly over time. Eaglets normally fledge at around 10-13 weeks old.
Once the eaglets get more mobile and begin moving out of the nest cup, we plan to zoom the camera out a bit so we can follow their actions. Once they get to the point where they’re branching (hopping out to the branches of their nest tree), we’ll zoom out even more and pan the camera around so we can watch them as they prepare to fledge.
For those keeping score, here are the final dates for our two chicks:
1st egg laid: 1/20
Hatched: 2/26 (early morning)
2nd egg laid: 1/23
Hatched: 2/27 (early morning)
As you can see, our two eaglets hatched very close together. It’s possible our parents used some delayed incubation on the first egg to get the two eggs to hatch near each other. Bald eaglets are reportedly the fastest growing birds in North America, and biologists long ago used to believe that the chicks were being born weeks apart, when really they were only being born days apart. Because the first chick has the size advantage, it helps if it hatches closer to its siblings, so the size advantage is not too great, which could lead to excessive bullying.
We often get asked how we can tell the difference between the parents. It can be rather challenging on the cam, but the mother is larger than the father — by about a third. Here is a comparison shot showing them both on the eggs. You can see the female fills more of the cam image than the father. Also, it’s the mother who is on the nest overnight, with the father likely roosting in a nearby tree.
I want to thank everyone for their gallery submissions. If you’re new to our cam, you can find out how to send in images by visiting our Submit Photos page. I’m working on a gallery update now, so I hope to have something up soon.
Meanwhile last week we posted a short video of cam images showing our two eaglets enjoying an early meal: