VDGIF/Norfolk Botanical Garden Eagle Cam: Getting Close

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, in partnership with the Norfolk Botanical Garden and WVEC, is providing a rare glimpse into the life of two bald eagles and their offspring!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

“Getting Close”

We've received a number of questions and comments about the female's apparent panting while incubating the eggs. While some have simply been curious some are concerned that it is a sign of distress. Panting is a perfectly normal behavior and serves to help the eagle thermoregulate (maintain a constant body temperature). As birds have no ability to perspire panting allows them to cool off during warm weather. As the animal pants, moisture from their lungs, mouth and respiratory tract evaporates - cooling the animal. Normally birds would move to the shade to avoid warmer temperatures but incubating exposes them to more of the sun's warmth - hence the panting. This is not a sign of distress, simply the way these birds deal with their environment.

We're drawing closer to our expected hatch date. We'll hope to see the first egg hatch sometime late next week. The eggs won't all hatch at once and it is not uncommon for an egg(s) not to hatch. The first chick to hatch will have the advantage of having the nest (and all the fish) to himself for a bit. As the birds grow rapidly at this stage the first to hatch will be notably larger then its siblings. Competition can be fierce and siblicide sometimes occurs. The territory of these eagles is rich in food and in the past these adults have been able to provide enough food for three hungry mouths - we'll hope that they can repeat that performance this year.