Congratulations! It is… a bird? The first of three eggs laid by a bald eagle five weeks ago hatched on Friday in a nest near Hays’ Monongahela River in Pittsburgh. This was officially confirmed by the the Pennsylvania Game Commission using their PixController-operated webcam.
The news has already started attracting tourists from all over who have flocked to catch a glimpse of the newly hatched eaglet. Kathy Hartos from Dravosburg, which is part of the Pittsburgh Metro area, said that bald eagles are simply wonderful and fantastic. She admitted growing fond of and getting attached to the eagle cam set up by the Game Commission. Hartos added that she and her husband would turn on the evening news and watch the whole thing. With the help of the webcam,anyone watching the news Friday morning was able to see the eaglet peck its way out of the shell as it happened.
About an hour after the hatch, both the male and female eagles could be seen in the nest along with the baby eaglet. Present with the eagles were two more unhatched eggs. It is expected that the two remaining eggs will hatch in a period of two or more days. The average incubation period for bald eagles is generally 35 days, but this eaglet took 37 to hatch.
Bob Mulvihill, an ornithologist at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh said that the prolonged cold weather could have elongated the normal incubation period. The possibility that the egg hatched so late due to unfavorable conditions is quite high.
The male eagle hunted and brought food back to the nest while the female eagle warmed the eaglet and continued to incubate the remaining eggs. The Pennsylvania Game Commission said that this is exactly what the mother eagle should be doing right now. Gary Fujak of the Game Commission said that due to the downy feathers on the eaglet, it will not yet be able to self-regulate its own body temperature.
Even though the eaglet is the first to enter the world, there is a possibility it was the not the first egg laid. The executive director of the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, Jim Bonner, said that the egg hatched might not be the first. The late hatch time indicates that the first egg did not produce an eaglet, and that it was the second egg that hatched.
He said that he cannot deny that this is the first egg but there is not enough evidence to positively confirm this. If in time it is seen that only two eggs hatch while the third does not then it would be safe to assume that it was the second that hatched first.
The young eaglet will remain vulnerable for the first year. The mortality rate for the first bald eaglet is generally 50 percent. They are also easy prey for predators. A crow, owl or hawk could grab an eaglet and fly off without either of the parents even realizing it. A predator like a raccoon can more easily grab an eaglet than it can grab an egg.
The nest has already been under a raccoon and an avian predator attack, which the eagles managed to defend. Warmer weather however will bring with it another set of threats, as the eaglet will then be under a constant threat of snake attacks.
The world of a bald eagle might sound harsh and threatening but Bonner said that this is completely normal in the life of a bird. It is just that no one gets to see it with a webcam every day. While the newly-hatched bald eaglet has a lot to learn in order to survive, Fujak said that the neighborhood of Pittsburgh, with the exception of cars and humans, is a good habitat in which the eagle can grow up.
By Hammad Ali