Before we get to our feeding videos, we wanted to remind everyone that this Saturday, March 15, is our 14th Annual Eagle Festival at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge near Cambridge, Maryland. We have a very exciting schedule this year. In addition to our renovated Visitor Center (which reopened in December), we have two sets of TV monitors in the VC that will show you a live video feed of our eaglets on the Eagle Cam, so you can see them in action. We’ll also have Chesapeake Bay author Tom Horton, Bay photographer David Harp, bald eagle and golden eagle presentations, Eagle Prowls, children’s activities, and a special nature photography seminar with Jim Clark from “Outdoor Photographer” magazine. Visit our Eagle Festival web page for all the details, including driving directions.One additional special event we’ll have on Saturday is something that I wanted to mention for our cam watchers. Many of you might remember U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service raptor specialist Craig Koppie. He was the person who visited our nest in 2005 to remove the middle eaglet, so it could participate in the Vermont Bald Eagle Restoration Initiative. He was also the person who visited the nest a couple years ago when our two eaglets were killed by an intruder. Craig has published a book with local author Teena Ruark Gorrow called “Inside a Bald Eagle’s Nest: A Photographic Journey through the American Bald Eagle Nesting Season.” Craig and Teena will be at the Festival to talk about the book, and you’ll be able to buy a copy there (and on our Eagle Store web page). The book offers some of the most amazing close-ups you’ll see of young bald eagles (such as the photo posted here), and it offers wonderful facts and insights into the behaviors of nesting bald eagles. We’re very excited to have Craig and Teena at the Festival, so be sure to come out and hear them speak — and pick up a copy of their book!
And now, onto our chicks. Our third egg was a dud — the first time we’ve had that happen since going live in 2004 — but it’s not terribly unusual for an egg not to hatch. It is noteworthy that our female lost a third chick last year (another first), so maybe our female is getting a bit older and isn’t quite up to producing three healthy chicks any longer. We’ll just have to wait and see.
But our two eaglets are doing well, and we’ve enjoyed watching our younger eaglet do his best to position himself near the food.
In the clip below — produced by one of our cam watchers — you see some aggression from the older chick, which is very common. The best part of being the older chick is you’re bigger, so you can bully other chicks in the nest. The older chick will sometimes peck the younger bird on the head, which makes him act submissive and put his head down, and this allows the older chick to have an easier time getting most of the food.
But sometimes the younger chick is the one who does the pecking. We taped this clip on March 1, and you can see the younger chick trying to peck at the older bird as he feeds. The younger chick doesn’t accomplish much by doing this, but it’s kind of funny to see him trying to be the aggressor.
And in this last video, also from March 1, we see the younger bird get in front of the older chick in order to get a better position at mealtime. Sometimes this will lead to the older chick pecking the younger one on the back of the head, but in this sequence at least, the older chick lets the younger stay in place and get some nice bites.
We know it’s hard to watch the younger bird get less during some meals, but this is the way eagle nests work. The good news is that although our younger bird is smaller (and will stay that way for a while, since he’s getting smaller meals), he is healthy, and later this spring he will be a full-grown eagle.
One final note: We did have a couple folks ask when we’ll zoom the camera out. We have seen that our chicks are becoming more mobile. Once they are regularly climbing out of the nest cup and out of our view, we’ll go out to the woods and zoom the camera back, so we can see them when they get around the edge of the nest. Sometimes they get really close to the edge, but the parents keep an eye on them, and we’ve never lost an eaglet by having it fall out of the nest.