VDGIF/Norfolk Botanical Garden Eagle Cam: 03/01/2009 - 04/01/2009

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!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

“Doing Well”

While the extended hatch time of the third eaglet had many concerned it finally hatched and seems to be doing well. In fact, all three of the eaglets seem to be vigorous and healthy as far as we can tell. All three have been participating in the frequent feedings by both both parents.

Food availability is not a problem...several fish can be seen around the nest. The rich habitat surrounding the Norfolk Botanical Garden is an excellent hunting ground for this experienced pair. All three eaglets seem to getting plenty of food. In the video clip below you'll note the male doing his best to feed all three of the eaglets. The female eventually joins him and the pair work together to feed all three of their young. The male also feeds tidbits to his mate, this serves to further strengthen their pair bond.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

“3rd Chick Hatched”

The 3rd eaglet at the Norfolk Botanical Garden hatched this morning! Early camera viewers caught glimpses of movement that looked enticingly like a third chick was hatching at about 7:12 am. It was difficult to get a clear view however, and we couldn't absolutely confirm the chick until shortly after 9am.

In this image you can see the third chick raise its head as the adult female feeds the siblings. The youngest eaglet is still a bit damp and tired but the fact that it is interested in the food being offered is a good sign. Once it is able to raise its head the adults will begin to feed it as well.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

“Still watching and waiting”

We are still closely watching the nest for any sign that the third egg has hatched. With the depth of the nest bowl and the very attentive adults it can be difficult to get a clear view. The initial pip was noted on Sunday March 21st. Hatching can be an exhausting ordeal for a young chick and can be a somewhat prolonged process. Both adults continue to incubate the egg as they brood the two chicks that have hatched.

Prior to beginning to hatch the young bird absorbed all of the remaining yolk. The yolk is fat-rich and provides the chick with much needed energy. The digestion of this fat also provides a source of metabolic water (water created as a by-product of the break-down of fat).

While the length of time we've been waiting may be causing concern it is too soon to draw any conclusions. We will continue to watch and update the blog with any developments

Monday, March 23, 2009

“Waiting on the 3rd”

Both parents have been busy keeping the 1st two chicks fed. The first photo shows the male tearing pieces of fish and passing them to the female who feeds the eaglets. In the second photo the pip one the third egg is clearly evident. The 3rd eaglet still has siome work to do to break out of its egg but seems well on its way.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

“2nd Egg Hatched”

The second egg hatched this morning at the Norfolk Botanical Garden. At about 8:48 am the 2nd eaglet made its first appearance, wriggling out of its egg while its sibling was being fed. The mother then quickly settled in to brood the young nestlings.
The young eaglets are covered with a light white natal down, this will be replaced by a heavier wooley gray down in about 14 days. Not until this time are the young birds able to thermoregulate (maintain their own body temperature). Until this time they will still be dependent on the adults to brood them.

Although these eggs were laid three days apart - they hatched within 1 day of each other. This is typical and occurs because full incubation is often delayed until the clutch is complete. In this way the eggs hatch closer together, minimizing some of the disadvantages a younger sibling might have.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


The 1st egg hatched this afternoon (Saturday Mar. 21st) at the Norfolk Botanical Garden. We believe that the hatching occur ed between 12:00 and 12:30pm but the female's attentiveness made it difficult to get a clear view. A second egg has pipped so we'll expect to it hatch sometime soon. The entire hatching process can take up to 24 hours so we are unsure when the 2nd hatchling will make it's debut.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

“What's happening inside those eggs?”

As we draw ever closer to the 1st egg hatching many may wonder what's happening inside the egg itself.

The interior of the eggshell is lined with membranes that together form what is called the chorioallantois. The many blood vessels of the chorioallantois pass oxygen through the outer shell and to the developing embryo (and expel carbon dioxide). Metabolic wastes are also transported to this membrane. Since being laid the egg has been slowly but steadily losing water through the pores of the shell, as a result the egg actually weighs less now then when it was laid. The shell is somewhat thinner now as some of the calcium in the eggshell has been absorbed by the embryo and used to help build its developing bones.

After over 35 days now the embryo's development is largely complete and we'll expect to see the first egg hatch over the next few days. The eaglet will reposition itself inside the egg bringing its bill close to the air space that occupies the end of the egg. The embryo is absorbing what remains of the yolk into its abdomen and will begin to absorb and remaining fluid in the egg as well.

The embryo pierces the air space with its bill and breathes with its lungs for the first time. Now the real work of hatching begins. The hatchling will use two specialized structures in this demanding process: the egg tooth a small, sharp structure on the upper beak of the young bird(this will fall off shortly after hatching) and the complexus muscle (also called the pipping muscle). This muscle is greatly enlarged prior to hatching and is used to brace the head as the egg tooth is rasped repeatedly across the shell. Eventually the hatchling breaks through or pips and a small hole will be seen at the end of egg. The hatchling will continue to break through the shell until it has created an opening large enough to emerge through. This entire process - from the early repositioning to final emergence can take days.
The parents can hear and feel the activity inside the egg and may respond to it - especially at the later stages of the process. Once the hatchling has begun to breathe with its lungs it can also begin to make soft calls which the parents can hear. Once the hatching process begins we may notcie that the adult's behavior changes - they will spend less time incubating and will watch the egg closely.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

“Camera Outage”

All parties involved with the Eagle Cam are aware of the current outage. The problem in this case lies with the actual T1 line that carries the camera feed. As such it is outside of the control of WVEC or the Norfolk Botanical Garden. A priority service call has been placed with the service provider and they will respond as soon as possible. At this point we have not been given an estimate as to expected repair time. Please be patient as we work to resolve the issue - this is a technical problem outside of our control.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

“Yesterday's outage”

The Norfolk Botanical Garden suffered a power outage ysterday and the main computer handling the feed shorted when the backup battery failed. Garden staff are looking into the backup battery problem to avoid such problems in the future.

“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.

Monday, March 02, 2009

“Power Out (and all is well)”

The camera outage is due to power being out for a portion of the Norfolk Botanical Garden. The winter storm that has blanketed much of the area was accompanied by high winds and many utility customers are without power...including part of the Garden.

Staff at the Garden report that all is well with the pair, with the female incubating and the male nearby. Despite the chilly temperatures and snow the pair will have no problem keeping their eggs warm.