VDGIF/Norfolk Botanical Garden Eagle Cam: 05/01/2009 - 06/01/2009

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!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


The oldest eaglet branched for the 1st time today. Branching is the process by which the young birds hop out of the nest onto the limbs next to it. This is a small step towards eventual fledging. Branching allows the birds to begin to really stretch their wings, improving their coordination and balance while building the muscles they'll need for flight. Bald eagles fledge, or leave the nest, any time between 9 and 14 weeks, although young from this nest seem to average slightly over 11 weeks.

They'll need to branch out to find room to spread their wings as each will have a wingspan of between 6-8 feet. It will definitely get crowded in there!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

“Transmitter On Board”

The fitting of the eaglet at the Norfolk Botanical Garden went as planned this morning. Eaglet #2 (readable band HH) was selected for this procedure. This bird was the largest of the eaglets. When these three chicks were banded the sex of this bird was not known as its measurements fell between those for males & females. At this stage of its growth however - it was easy for biologists to determine that bird was in fact a female. Dr. Bryan Watt removed the chick from the nest, assisted by climbers from Nuckols Tree Care. While in the nest Dr Watts was also able to determine that one of the eaglets previously identified as a male (readable band HE) was in fact female.

The bird was lowered to the ground where Libby Mojica (CCB Biologist) fitted the transmitter to the eaglet's back. The transmitter was attached using soft teflon cloth straps. These allow the bird its full range of motion and won't interfere with its ability to learn to fly (or anything else eagle-like). During the procedure the bird was hooded, a technique used by falconers for thousands of years. This keeps the bird calm, in fact the eaglet dozed off during the procedure.

In the interest of reducing the amount of time the eaglet was out of the nest no additional measurements were taken during the procedure.

As expected the adults circled overhead during the procedure. Once returned to the nest neither HH nor its siblings seemed concerned by the transmitter and resumed their typical routine.

All three chicks looked healthy and well fed. The development of flight feathers is nearly complete - and these birds look much different from the downy gray chicks we saw when they were banded.

This transmitter will allow researchers (and the public) to follow the movements of the eagle once it leaves the nest. This will provide important information about the movement and habitat use of bald eagles - information that is vital to their conservation. For more information about tracking this bird visit

Photos courtesy of the Norfolk Botanical Garden

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

“Transmitter details”

Biologists from the Center for Conservation Biology at William & Mary will be fitting a satellite transmitter to one of the Norfolk Botanical Garden eaglets on Wednesday May 20th at 10:00am.
The biologists will do both the climbing and the transport of the chick to the ground. At this stage of the eaglets' development the birds are much more active and experienced hands will ensure the safety of the birds. The largest of the chicks will be selected to ensure the best fit. Choosing the largest of the eaglets will also reduce the ratio of the weight of the transmitter relative to the eagle. As a general rule of thumb the weight of a transmitter shouldn't exceed 3% of a bird's body weight. The transmitter being used weighs 70 grams (equivalent to about 14 U.S. nickels). At the time of the banding the largest eaglet was #2 (readable band HH) at 2973 grams. By the time the bird fledges the transmitter will only be about 1.5% (or less) of its body weight. The eaglet will be weighed and measured again while on the ground being fitted with the transmitter.
The bird will be hooded during the procedure to help keep it calm. These transmitters do not interfere with the eagle's daily lives - there are records of bald eagles successfully breeding and fledging young while wearing a transmitter.

Friday, May 15, 2009

“Good News”

Yesterday the Norfolk Botanical Garden suffered a partial power loss that affected the Eagle Cam. This unintentional "reboot" solved the issues with camera control and seems to have reset the night vision as well. We had considered turning the camera on and off but were concerned that if we didn't regain control we would the view of the nest entirely. When turned off/on the camera resets to a "center' position that does not show the nest. We had elected to proceed with an abundance of caution to eliminate any loss of the camera feed to the public.

In other news biologists from the Center for Conservation Biology at William & Mary will be fitting one of the eaglets with a solar powered transmitter on May 20th. This transmitter will send a signal to CCB every three days, allowing researchers to closely track the movements of this eagle - helping to answer one of the most common questions regarding these birds: "where do they go when they leave". The public will be able to track this (and other) bird at . The transmitter should send a signal for at least three years. During this time it will provide information as to the areas and habitats that this bird utilizes. Information from this and other eagles will become increasingly important as we work to conserve the habitats and resources critical to the continued recovery of bald eagles.

Monday, May 11, 2009

“Network Outage”

We are aware of the current network outage. The T1 line that provides the network feed is down. The service provider is aware of the problem and is working to correct it.

Thank you for your patience.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

“Brief Visit”

James Deal, a photographer who regularly documents the eagles Norfolk Botanical Garden captured an amazing series of photographs this past Sat. (May 2nd).

A juvenile eagle circled the area and approached the nest apparently with the intention of landing. The adult male rose from the nest to meet the young bird who quickly decided to continue on its way. Its path took it quite close to the nest where the female was protecting her nestlings. Without further incident the young bird left the area closely followed by the male. The male returned shortly thereafter. Many thanks to James Deal for sharing this image with us (this photo is copyright protected and cannot be used without permission). To see the full series of photo go to
The young eagles continue to develop well. They are growing increasingly nimble on their feet and their brown juvenile plumage is growing in quickly. Although the parents still feed the young it won't be long until they are able to hold and tear their own food.