Incubation Duties

Rolling the eggs

Rolling the eggs

Our parents are doing their usual good job of protecting their three eggs from the elements and any predators (crows, vultures, owls) that might become interested in the nest if the eggs were left alone for too long.

Our parents share in the incubation duties, which require that the eggs be kept at around 99.5° F in order for the eaglets to develop properly inside the shells. Although both parents perform this duty, the female is on the nest the most and she seems to be the one on the nest at night. The female is about a third bigger than the male, although sometimes this is hard to see unless they’re right next to each other. I usually look to see if the parent seems to be about as long as the central nest area, and if it is, then I assume it’s the female.

Incubation duties include not only protecting the eggs and keeping them warm, but also rolling them about once an hour. Rolling prevents the developing eaglets from getting stuck to one side of the inner shell wall, and it also ensures that the heat is applied evenly to the egg. Each parent has a brood patch, which is a featherless area on their chest that they press against the eggs to apply their body heat directly to the shells.

When rolling the eggs, the parents have to be careful that they don’t puncture the shells with their very sharp talons. If you watch carefully, sometimes you can see the parent roll their talons in before touching the eggs. Considering that an eagle’s talons are its most fearsome weapon (they can puncture a human hand), it’s always amazing to see them being so gentle when touching the eggs.

For anyone who has watched our Eagle Cam in the past, you know that our parents like to perform a little “ballet” during incubation season. When the non-incubating parent wants a turn on the eggs, they often drop something on the back of the seated parent — pine needles, grass, etc. — and then they stand there until the seated parent finally gets up. We saw an example of this yesterday, and it worked, like it usually does!

The Changeover

The Changeover

Until next time,
Lisa – webmaster
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Categories: blackwater nwr, eagle cam, eggs | Leave a comment

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