[Bristol-Birds] South Holston eagles proud parents as eaglet shows it stuff !

  • From: "Wallace Coffey" <jwcoffey@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Bristol-birds" <bristol-birds@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 22 Apr 2009 20:56:21 -0400

The Bald Eagles at South
Holston Lake in Washington
Co., VA are proud parents.

At 2 p.m. today (4/22), at
least one eaglet could be
seen as it raised its head
to peer over the nest edge
at its brave, new world.
It weaved its head from
side to side as if to get
things in focus.

Ever so often,  the eaglet
would raise a wing to either
balance as it squirmed in
the nest or to develop a
little range of motion.  The
wing could be seen about
six to eight inches above
the edge of the nest.

An adult (most likely a female)
perched at what now seems 
to be the back rim of the nest.
This is the same position one
stood in two weeks ago.  
I have not seen this nest during the last several weeks when 
an adult eagle was not present.  Usually, at least one adult is at the
nest continuously for the first couple of weeks of hatchling life.  
The photo included with this post was made today.  The eaglet is
very dark and I could not get a photo when it was visible.

The nestling seen today appears to be about three weeks of age
and probably hatched about the last day or two of March or around
the first of April.  Soon, both adults will be busy hunting and bringing
food to the nest.  We should see larger young by that time. And we
can expect to see both adults standing on the nest and much 
struggling to be fed by the larger young. 

It is still very likely that today's eaglet is the first hatched.

There is a disparity in egg hatching since such large birds of prey
often lay eggs several days apart.  A second young may be in the
nest but much smaller and not active enough or large enough to be
seen.  It should have a bit more of the white down which is present
when first hatched. 

One of the amazing situations with eagle egg hatching is that eggs which
hatch females have been shown in nest studies as having a statistical
trend towards being the first egg hatched in clutches of two or three
eggs.  Male hatching first and then female is rare.  Since females
are larger then males in most birds of prey, the young males will not
normally be as large as a sibling female.  But nothing says two eggs
hatched in a clutch will have one male and one female.  It might easily 
be two males or two females and such.  The overall sex ratio for young
of this species is near equal.  

The disparity in size will eventually close to near equal as nestlings.
Females being physically dominant in fighting for food brought to the
nest does not usually result in a young eaglet being starved to death
unless the quantity of food supplied by the adults is not adequate.
Fighting over food and general aggressiveness among nestlings usually
works itself out and there is less aggression as the nestlings become

Adequate food supply is one thing.  The inability of adults to be able to
find food near the water because of the heavy recreational boating 
could reduce survival potential.  This is a narrow part of the lake and
disturbance that keeps adults away from the water could be a problem.

What may have been an adequate food supply for adults during the
winter may change somewhat as early summer approaches.  We can
only hope that the food supply will continue to support these birds.

But nature will soon have many young mallards and goslings to pick
over.  Carp will be splashing in the shallows as they begin spring
breeding.  There may not be a dismal proposition for the eagle family.

We will not be totally out of the woods for some weeks.  Raccoons
can be a threat early on to young in the nest.  There are Black Bears 
in the vicinity.  Too much dropping of fish and such from the nest to
the ground can be picked up on by bears and they are sometimes
known to climb to eagle's nest and prey on the eaglets.  Bears can
climb very high.

This will be an adventure for us all.

Let's go birding . . . 

Wallace Coffey
Bristol, TN

JPEG image

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  • » [Bristol-Birds] South Holston eagles proud parents as eaglet shows it stuff ! - Wallace Coffey