VDGIF/Norfolk Botanical Garden Eagle Cam: 04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007

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!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

“Can eagles smell?”

A number of people expressed concern that the mother would reject the eaglets after they were handled by humans

This harkens back to something many of us were told as children - that a mother bird would smell the fact the her young had been handled by humans and reject them.

As evidenced by the fact that both adult eagles have been back to their parental duties this is not the case. In fact most birds have little if any sense of smell. Only a few groups of birds have any notable sense of smell. Birds that have a developed olfactory sense include: turkey vultures (may help to find carrion) cave swifts (use smell to help navigate in the dark) and some seabirds such as shearwaters and fulmars, that use a sense of smell to locate the source of "fishy" odors - very helpful for finding food in the vast open ocean. Some storm petrels even use their sense of smell to locate their nest burrow.

Please rest assured that all actions taken in regards to these eagles are done with the well being of the birds as the primary consideration. Were there any doubt that the banding might lead to the abandonment of the nest it would not have been undertaken.

“Eagle Banding”

Yesterday the Norfolk Botanical Garden eaglets were banded by biologists from the Center for Conservation Biology at William & Mary. The timing of this procedure was very deliberate; scheduling the banding at a time when the eaglets are very docile, thereby minimizing any stress to the birds. The parents circled overhead, sometimes at a distance. Despite their size and fierce countenance bald eagles are actually fairly shy and the parents don't interfere with this type of procedure. The biologists who performed the banding are very experienced and able to perform the banding relatively quickly.
This type of work is instrumental in continuing to manage the recovery of bald eagles. The information gained from yesterday's banding will provide information regarding the ecology of bald eagles that will help inform the management decisions made in the future.
Once on the ground each eaglet was briefly examined and it vital measurements taken. A small blood sample was taken and a single feather collected. These will allow for future genetic work to be performed. A numbered aluminum band was placed around each eaglet's leg. These bands, which can be read at a distance with a spotting scope, will allow the future movements of these eaglets to be tracked, providing important information regarding the dispersal and habitat use of these birds. The bands are large enough to accommodate any growth. The eaglets didn't demonstrate any signs of distress or discomfort.

Following the banding each eaglet was returned to the nest. The parents have returned to the nest and are delivering fish.

Oldest Eaglet (Female)
The first eaglet banded was also the oldest. This eaglet is a female and weighed in at 3.815 kg (about 8.4lbs). The wing chord (from the "wrist" joint to the tip of the longest feather) measured 284 mm (or about 11 inches). Notice the numerous brown feathers growing in as the eaglet replaces down with juvenile feathers. Sex was determined by the relative size of the tarsus and feet.

Female's foot w/ band

The second eaglet banded was also the second hatched. This bird is a male and weighed 3.162 kg (6.9 lbs) with a wing chord of 272 mm (10.4 inches). The juvenile plumage was still obvious, but less progressed on this bird.

Middle Eaglet (male)

The final eaglet was also a male and the youngest of the three. This eaglet weighed 3.062 kg (also about 6.9 lbs). The wing chord of this bird was only 95 mm (3.7 inches). Why the disparity? This bird is younger and the growth of juvenile plumage not as advanced. There are really no primary feathers to speak of in this bird's wing, resulting in a much lower measurement. You can see the relative lack of juvenile plumage and the preponderance of down on this eaglet. This bird's crop was nice and full. Younger eaglets are more likely to retain food in their crop, whereas the older siblings simply gulp it down.

Youngest Eaglet (male)

All three birds appeared to be alert and generally healthy.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

“Banding Postponed”

The banding of the eaglets at the Norfolk Botanical Garden has been postponed until 3:00pm this afternoon.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

“Changing Before Our Eyes”

The eaglets are growing rapidly. In fact eaglets grow faster then any other North American bird. They've replaced their first set of down with a darker grey woolly down. The male continues to do most of the hunting and the female watches over the nest and feeds the young. You'll notice the remarkable difference in size of the three eaglets. The oldest is the largest having the benefit of a few days without any siblings to compete with. This early advantage allows this eaglet to command more of his parent's attention (and push his siblings out of the way) and get a larger share of the food. In the photo the three have arranged themselves by age (oldest on the right).

Despite this size difference all three eaglets seem to be doing well, with the parents providing enough food to go around. The female spends more time away from the nest now. In early days following hatching the eaglets had a very limited ability to control their own body temperature (thermoregulate). Because of this the female would "brood" them, keeping them warm during cold periods and/or shading them during warm spells. The young have now developed the physiological mechanisms they need to thermoregulate on their own. During warm weather you'll notice the birds panting to help cool down.

The birds spend a lot of time resting. The rapid growth they're going through consumes a lot of energy. The eaglets are slowly becoming more mobile, although they are still fairly awkward on their feet.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

“Possible Video Fix”

I've been getting messages from folks regarding the video being down. Occasionally there are temporary network outages - which the folks at the Norfolk Botanical Garden work to fix as soon as they can.

I was left scratching my head while talking to a colleague who couldn't see the video feed while I was watching The female feed all 3 of the eaglets.

I remembered a technical glitch I'd had on my computer and sure enough it fixed the problem.
The media player for the camera seems to reset the proxy settings, you can correct this by following these steps.
1. Right Click on the black box where the video should be
2. Select Options from the menu
3. Click on the Network tab
4. Under Streaming Proxy Settings highlight HTTP and click the Configure button
5. Under Proxy Setting make sure that Use Proxy Settings of the Web Browser is elected
6. Click Refresh on your web browser


Hopefully this helps.

UPDATE (10:51 PM): We received several e-mails noting Mac users having problems with viewing the Eagle Cam video stream over the past few days. We tested the page using both Firefox and Safari on Mac OS X 10.4 and the camera feed appears to be functioning normally in these browsers at this time.

We will not be able to personally respond to every e-mail or telephone call due to the volume we've received. We do, however, value all of the feedback sent to us and hope you are enjoying the Eagle Cam!