Throughout 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.
I 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.