VDGIF/Norfolk Botanical Garden Eagle Cam

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 28, 2010

“Update on Eagle at the Wildlife Center of Virginia”

The following is from an announcement forwarded by the Wildlife Center of Virginia. As our veiwers may recall, in 2008 the DGIF Wildlife Veterninarian removed the lone eaglet from this nest due to a large and potentially life-threatening Avian Pox lesion. DGIF staff then transported the bird to the WCV for care. (photo courtesy of the Wildlife Center of Virginia)

The Wildlife Center of Virginia, the nation’s leading teaching and research hospital for wild animals, today announced that the Norfolk Botanical Garden Bald Eagle – admitted to the Center as a patient in May 2008 and an international “celebrity” – will become a permanent resident at the Center.

The Bald Eagle will become a member of the Center’s corps of non-releasable education animals, which includes hawks, owls, snakes, turtles, and opossums. In additional to being seen by visitors to the Wildlife Center, many of these animals travel with Center staff and take part in environmental education programs in elementary school classrooms and auditoriums and at libraries, county fairs, and other venues.

The announcement comes on the eagle’s second birthday – the eagle hatched from his egg in a nest at the Norfolk Botanical Garden on April 27, 2008.
The Center only gives names to those animals that are permanent residents. To date, the eagle has been known at the Center as #08-0887, his patient number. Now that he will be permanant resident he has been dubbed "Buddy" a name long used by many online fans of this bird.

Future plans for buddy inclkude new enclosure and possibly a webcam. Members of the Center’s rehabilitation staff started training Buddy in February 2010. The goal is to train the bird to sit calmly on a handler’s gloved hand, so that Buddy can be taken to programs and presentations off-site. The training process often takes many months of hard work – for both the eagle and the handlers.

Labels: ,

Friday, March 19, 2010

“VDGIF and Eagle Conservation”

What Does the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) do to conserve eagles in Virginia? This article from Virginia Wildlife provides a great look at some of the work VDGIF biologists do.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is the state agency responsible for the conservation and management of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s wildlife and fisheries resources as well as recreational boating.

Nongame species (those that are not hunted or otherwise harvested) are monitored and managed by the Nongame and Endangered Species program of VDGIF. Biologists with this program work to increase our knowledge regarding these species and provide guidance regarding the conservation practices necessary to maintain the rich diversity of Virginia’s wildlife. More information about Virginia’s wildlife and VDGIF’s conservation efforts can be found here

VDGIF and Eagles
Here’s some of the of the ways VDGIF works to conserve bald eagles and golden eagles:
• Funding for Virginia Coastal Plain bald eagle nest monitoring 1977-2008
• Boat and Aerial Surveys of bald eagle Concentration Areas
• Twice monthly monitoring of Cats Point Creek Bald Eagle distribution and abundance
• 2010 – 1st ever survey of Piedmont and Mountain area bald eagle nests
• Capture and banding of bald eagles
• GPS telemetry of bald eagles
• GPS telemetry study of golden eagles in Virginia

You can support these efforts through a contribution to the VDGIF Nongame Wildlife Fund

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

“Inside The Eggs”

The embryos inside the eggs continue the final stages of development. At this point many recognizable structures are in place and the major organ systems are largely formed. There are no highly detailed studies of the embryology of bald eagle eggs - but we can use studies from other raptors, namely American kestrels (Falco sparverius) as a rough guide to what might be happening inside the egg.

By now the feathers of the natal down are in place. The bill has started to harden and scales are covering most of the legs and toes. The eyes are closed and the complexus muscle (hatching muscle) has begun to swell. Much of the remaining amniotic fluid inside the chorioallantois membrane (see archive for egg diagram) has been absorbed. We’ll post again in the coming days with more of what’s happening inside the eggs as they get closer to hatching.

This information is based on:
Pisenti JM, Santolo GM, Yamamoto JT, Morzenti AA. 2001. Embryonic Development of the American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) External Criteria for Staging. J Raptor Res. 35(3):194-206

Labels: , ,

Thursday, February 18, 2010

“When Will They Hatch?”

Now that the eagles are settled in and incubating their three eggs - the big question is when will the eggs hatch? In addition to our knowledge about bald eagle biology, we have this pair's previous history to help guide us.

The scientific literature generally reports an incubation period of 35 days (although various authorities may list 34-38 days). Directly observing when bald eagles lay eggs and when they hatch has always been a challenge for biologists, sometimes limiting how precisely we could record events. The advent of technology such as the Eagle Cam has allowed both researchers and the public an unprecedented view of what actually happens in the nest.

We can now document when eggs have been laid and when they hatch with great accuracy (often to the minute). This will help us to better understand the nesting ecology of these birds. A table of the egg laying and hatch dates since the camera has been active is included below.

Given past history - the average time for this pairs first egg to hatch has been just over 38 days (38days 3.6 hours). This would put our first egg hatching on March 9th. The second egg has hatched after an average of 37 days 7 hours and the third has averaged 36 days 3 hours. There is a clear trend of reduced incubation times for later eggs. By ensuring that the eggs hatch closer together, the disadvantage of the youngest chick is minimized. The eagles accomplish this by delaying full time incubation of the first egg (and to a lesser degree the second). This slows development and helps reduce the difference in hatch dates. It will be interesting to see if the trend holds true this year. As the first egg was laid in a snowstorm -the adults had to begin incubating it immediately. Whether or not this will have any effect in hatch dates remains to be seen.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

“What's on the Menu?”

This pair has had success raising large broods of three eaglets. This requires not only that the parents be skilled and experienced hunters, but also that the habitat is a rich enough resource to support their efforts. The bald eagles at the Norfolk Botanical Garden have chosen an abundant territory - One that offers many hunting opportunities.

While the bulk of a bald eagle’s diet is typically comprised of fish - they are opportunists who will feed on a variety of prey. The eagle cam has captured this pair feeding on a variety of prey - from pigeons and gulls to muskrats. Mostly though we've seen them eat fish. On several occasions we've noted spotted seatrout a marine fish that can be found in the Chesapeake Bay as well as brackish creeks (see 2009 archive). Gizzard shad are the most common prey item that we've seen in the past. This schooling fish is plentiful in nearby Lake Whitehurst.

In the past weeks we've noted two fish that we hadn't previously identified in the nest. On the first picture you'll note the rounded body and dark speckling of a black crappie. The second shows the distinct long dark barbel (or whisker) of a channel catfish. These identifications were confirmed by Chad Boyce, VDGIF fisheries biologist for the region who also noted "That's a big crappie if it came from Lake Whitehurst". He also pointed out that these species being captured at this time of year is somewhat unusual, as they typically retreat to deeper water during the winter. These "unusual" catches demonstrate that the eagles are flexible and able to utilize whatever resources are available. For more information about the fishes of Virginia check out

Labels: , ,

Saturday, February 06, 2010

“Egg Number 3!”

Just as the rain and sleet of another Northeaster began to turn to snow - a third egg was laid by the bald eagles at the Norfolk Botanical Garden. Just after 12:29 pm the female laid what should be the final egg of this clutch. The video below shows some of her labor and a brief view of the eggs at 12:29:50 of the camera's time stamp.

The female is currently resting and keeping all three of her eggs warm and dry.


Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

“2nd Egg”

Shortly before noon today (Feb 3, 2010) a second egg was laid at the Norfolk Botanical Garden. While many bald eagles only lay two eggs at a time - this pair has a history of three egg clutches. Only time will tell if a third egg is forthcoming.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, January 31, 2010

“1st Egg”

The first egg was laid in a snowy nest at about 2:15pm on Sunday January 31st. Eagles (and many other birds) will often delay incubation until all of the eggs are laid. This helps ensure that the young hatch more closely together - keeping the youngest hatchlings from being too disadvantaged.

Even in relatively cool weather the eggs remain viable for some time without incubation...a nest full if snow is another matter altogether. To keep the egg from being excessively chilled the female has begun incubation (see picture below). Hopefully the female's body heat will melt away the snow and keep the egg at an optimal temperature (105 degrees). The snowy weather represents a challenge that this pair doesn't often have to deal with but that bald eagles as a species are well adapted for. Some have asked if the female would wait until better weather conditions to lay her first egg - unfortunately once the procees has begun and an egg has entered the female's oviduct there is no stopping it.

Labels: , , ,