VDGIF/Norfolk Botanical Garden Eagle Cam: 02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007

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!

Friday, February 09, 2007

“Two...No wait Three Eggs!”

The eagles have kept true to form, laying 3 eggs again this year. A second egg was laid on Feb. 3rd and the third egg on the 7th. Three eggs is unusual with the majority of nests containing only two. Very rarely a fourth egg may be laid and Bald Eagles in captivity have been known to lay up to seven eggs!

The eggs are dull white and rough in texture. Bald Eagle eggs average 2.75-3 inches in length and 2-2.25 inches across. The female (and occasionally the male) will incubate the eggs to keep the embryos inside warm while they grow into eaglets. The adults will occasionally turn the eggs and rearrange the pine straw lining the nest. The eagles use great care in moving around the nest to avoid breaking any of the eggs.

Unfortunately, in the past, even careful eagles couldn't avoid breaking eggs. The chemical DDT was widely used to Control insects in the United States. This pesticide accumulated in the fish eagles and other birds fed on causing them to lay eggs with thin shells. When parents would attempt to incubate their eggs, they would inadvertently crush the shells. This and other factors (habitat loss and illegal shooting) led to a frightening decline in eagle populations.

By 1970 only 80-90 breeding pairs of Bald Eagles remained in the Chesapeake Bay Region. With the banning of DDT in the U.S. in 1972, and the protection of Endangered Species status in 1976 the stage was set for the recovery of this species. Although the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is currently considering removing (or de-listing) the Bald Eagle from the Endangered Species Act, the bird continues to be protected under a number of federal and state laws.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

“The Story Begins”

The female Bald Eagle at the Norfolk Botanical Garden laid her first egg of the season at approximately 4:15 pm on January 31st!

Eagles will typically lay from 1-3 eggs in a nest with 2 occurring most commonly. This pair laid three eggs last year and successfully fledged all three of the young. Hopefully we'll watch another successful year unfold.

The female usually lays one egg per day (although not necessarily on successive days). She'll begin to incubate the eggs as soon as the first is laid. Because of this the young will hatch at different times; with the eggs hatching in the order they were laid. During difficult years, the first hatchling will receive the bulk of the food and be most likely to survive.

Both parents will incubate the eggs, although the female does the bulk of this work. Adult eagles (and many other birds) have "brood patches" to help them keep eggs warm. These patches are areas of the belly without feathers. These bare patches allow the warm skin of the adult to be in direct contact with the eggs, helping to transfer body heat. The eggs will be incubated for about 35 days, at which point the first of the young will hatch.

The Virginia Dept. of Game & Inland Fisheries, in partnership with the Norfolk Botanical Garden is proud to offer this glimpse into the family life of our national symbol. We look forward to watching these magnificent birds through this amazing journey.