Berry College Eagles - 2 eggs in 2019

LizKat

macrumors 603
Original poster
Aug 5, 2004
6,429
34,940
Catskill Mountains
Yep it's that time again. The mom and pop eagle have 2 eggs they have been tending in the nest they returned to and refurbished yet again in a big ol' pine tree on the grounds of Berry College in Georgia.

One egg was laid on January 8 and the other on January 11. Time to hatch is about a month, so any time now we should have some action. There are two live cams in the 100-foot-tall pine tree. Enjoy!

Didn't make time to follow them last year but in 2017 they did well and successfully raised two eaglets who fledged out in May.

 

LizKat

macrumors 603
Original poster
Aug 5, 2004
6,429
34,940
Catskill Mountains
Well yesterday afternoon while it was sunny in Georgia, the mama suddenly startled and stepped back in the nest to look at the eggs; she was flapping her wings a bit and then holding them over the eggs while she peered at them. She has seemed somewhat more restless since then. Perhaps the chick in the egg that was laid on Jan 8th has grown its egg tooth --a process that occurs about a week before hatch and takes four days-- and had started scratching at the shell in a circular pattern to break the shell open and get out. That process takes 2 or 3 more days and the chick's movement and even chirping can be heard inside the eggshell by the parent minding the eggs.

Since the Berry College cams are infrared, the nest can still be viewed at night. Usually whichever parent is not on the nest at night is nearby to help deter any predators if needed.

The parent eagles don't interfere with the hatching process, they just keep the eggs warm and protected from predators, and take turns bringing food to the nest while the other one incubates the eggs. So the chick has to do all the work to break the shell completely and get out. Anyway both eggs should hatch very soon now if they are viable, as the time to hatch for bald eagle chicks usually runs from 33 to 38 days. If the eggs are not viable, the eagles will still spend some more time incubating them, but gradually start spending more time away from the nest when the eggs fail to hatch. So far this season the Berry College eagles are still minding their two eggs full time... but those eggs are pretty nearly to the end of normal range to hatch out.
 

Scepticalscribe

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Jul 29, 2008
51,525
35,068
The Far Horizon
Well yesterday afternoon while it was sunny in Georgia, the mama suddenly startled and stepped back in the nest to look at the eggs; she was flapping her wings a bit and then holding them over the eggs while she peered at them. She has seemed somewhat more restless since then. Perhaps the chick in the egg that was laid on Jan 8th has grown its egg tooth --a process that occurs about a week before hatch and takes four days-- and had started scratching at the shell in a circular pattern to break the shell open and get out. That process takes 2 or 3 more days and the chick's movement and even chirping can be heard inside the eggshell by the parent minding the eggs.

Since the Berry College cams are infrared, the nest can still be viewed at night. Usually whichever parent is not on the nest at night is nearby to help deter any predators if needed.

The parent eagles don't interfere with the hatching process, they just keep the eggs warm and protected from predators, and take turns bringing food to the nest while the other one incubates the eggs. So the chick has to do all the work to break the shell completely and get out. Anyway both eggs should hatch very soon now if they are viable, as the time to hatch for bald eagle chicks usually runs from 33 to 38 days. If the eggs are not viable, the eagles will still spend some more time incubating them, but gradually start spending more time away from the nest when the eggs fail to hatch. So far this season the Berry College eagles are still minding their two eggs full time... but those eggs are pretty nearly to the end of normal range to hatch out.
I had no idea that the parent eagles do not interfere in the hatching process, and that the chicks (eaglets?) must break their way out of their eggs themselves. Fascinating.

How can the parents tell whether the eggs are viable or not?
 

LizKat

macrumors 603
Original poster
Aug 5, 2004
6,429
34,940
Catskill Mountains
I had no idea that the parent eagles do not interfere in the hatching process, and that the chicks (eaglets?) must break their way out of their eggs themselves. Fascinating.

How can the parents tell whether the eggs are viable or not?
They can't, and casual observers of course can't tell whether nonviability was from failure of fertilization or a developmental / environmental failure. Parents will notice a broken egg though, and distinguish it from one where the incipient hatchling is making its way out. Sometimes they'll crush a broken egg and feed contents to an already hatched chick.

But if eggs remain intact in the nest, then the parents continue to incubate them even after 40 days, particularly if they're experienced parents. The appearance of a chick in the nest and its demands are what trigger the next step in the care of the eaglets.

As time goes on and if that next step is not triggered, the adults gradually lose interest, fail to bring fresh grasses to the nest, spend more time hunting and feeding themselves. They will sometimes create a second clutch of eggs but usually that's only if the first eggs are damaged or abandoned within a few weeks of having been laid. The female is fertile only in about a 2-3 week period. Lengthening daylight triggers production of a hormone necessary to fertility, but that gets switched off as incubation proceeds.
 

Scepticalscribe

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Jul 29, 2008
51,525
35,068
The Far Horizon
They can't, and casual observers of course can't tell whether nonviability was from failure of fertilization or a developmental / environmental failure. Parents will notice a broken egg though, and distinguish it from one where the incipient hatchling is making its way out. Sometimes they'll crush a broken egg and feed contents to an already hatched chick.

But if eggs remain intact in the nest, then the parents continue to incubate them even after 40 days, particularly if they're experienced parents. The appearance of a chick in the nest and its demands are what trigger the next step in the care of the eaglets.

As time goes on and if that next step is not triggered, the adults gradually lose interest, fail to bring fresh grasses to the nest, spend more time hunting and feeding themselves. They will sometimes create a second clutch of eggs but usually that's only if the first eggs are damaged or abandoned within a few weeks of having been laid. The female is fertile only in about a 2-3 week period. Lengthening daylight triggers production of a hormone necessary to fertility, but that gets switched off as incubation proceeds.
That is absolutely fascinating.
 

LizKat

macrumors 603
Original poster
Aug 5, 2004
6,429
34,940
Catskill Mountains
Here we have the changing of the guard on a Sunday afternoon in Georgia... viable or not, those eggs are getting mindful care around the clock so far. The parents are taking turns at the incubation and turning of the eggs. Each will hunt and then bring food to the nest so the other can eat or take a break, and otherwise hangs out in the vicinity of the nest to ward off any challengers or would-be predators.


Changing of the Guard - Berry College Eagles 2019.jpg
 

Scepticalscribe

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Jul 29, 2008
51,525
35,068
The Far Horizon
Here we have the changing of the guard on a Sunday afternoon in Georgia... viable or not, those eggs are getting mindful care around the clock so far. The parents are taking turns at the incubation and turning of the eggs. Each will hunt and then bring food to the nest so the other can eat or take a break, and otherwise hangs out in the vicinity of the nest to ward off any challengers or would-be predators.


Absolutely wonderful; this is awesome stuff.
 

LizKat

macrumors 603
Original poster
Aug 5, 2004
6,429
34,940
Catskill Mountains
Absolutely wonderful; this is awesome stuff.
The college posted an update today, noting that one of the eggs has a noticeable external pip now, meaning a chick has been working at the task of hatching out. We don't know yet if this is the first or second egg laid, and in either case the incipient hatch is at far end of expected timeframes, but now there's some hope for at least one chick this season from these eagles.

Here's the update info and a photo:

one of the eggs appears pipped.jpg


 

LizKat

macrumors 603
Original poster
Aug 5, 2004
6,429
34,940
Catskill Mountains
Some cool video from earlier today of the pipping process of one of the eggs. The parents do know they have a hatch in progress now, so they're pretty excited, while taking care to keep turning both eggs and incubating them but switching places a few times more often than usual and taking even more care how they place their feet and beaks as they take their turns checking hatch progress. No rest for the weary tonight.


The parents won't interfere with the hatch but they do need to know when there's finally a chick in the nest instead of two eggs so once pipping begins there's less rest for both parents. This is a familiar phase in rearing of their babies, so they may also remember that there's a long night ahead without the usual snooze time. Can be hard to catch a fish in a lake or river at midnight... time to stock up, so they may make extra forays before dark.

A hatching chick makes noise with its beak scratching against the shell to abrade a larger opening after the initial external pip, and it will also chirp while it tries to break out of the shell. The shell has thinned somewhat during incubation due to intake of its calcium content by the chick during its developmental process.

Hatching activity itself is driven by lack of oxygen and rise of carbon dioxide in the shell after the tiny external breakthrough or pip; that change in ambient air inside the still largely intact shell causes hatching contractions as the chick strives for more air, rotating as it probes the shell with its beak and pushing with its legs, resting between efforts.

The parents must look after their own needs before the hatch, after that there's a little time (several to 12 hours) before the chick will beg for food.

And after that.... it's a zoo of meeting perpetual demands for food, housekeeping and babysitting until a nestling's wings grow strong enough to start exercising them and venturing into branches above or adjacent to the nest structure.

Even after fledging, an eaglet must learn to fly well, where to fly to in order to catch their own food, and it needs to be shown how to hunt successfully. In the meantime the parents continue to provide some food while encouraging independence of the fledgling(s), which of course would rather be fed than have to make their own way to nail down some elusive chow that's still on foot or swimming or on the wing itself.
 

Scepticalscribe

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Jul 29, 2008
51,525
35,068
The Far Horizon
Some cool video from earlier today of the pipping process of one of the eggs. The parents do know they have a hatch in progress now, so they're pretty excited, while taking care to keep turning both eggs and incubating them but switching places a few times more often than usual and taking even more care how they place their feet and beaks as they take their turns checking hatch progress. No rest for the weary tonight.


The parents won't interfere with the hatch but they do need to know when there's finally a chick in the nest instead of two eggs so once pipping begins there's less rest for both parents. This is a familiar phase in rearing of their babies, so they may also remember that there's a long night ahead without the usual snooze time. Can be hard to catch a fish in a lake or river at midnight... time to stock up, so they may make extra forays before dark.

A hatching chick makes noise with its beak scratching against the shell to abrade a larger opening after the initial external pip, and it will also chirp while it tries to break out of the shell. The shell has thinned somewhat during incubation due to intake of its calcium content by the chick during its developmental process.

Hatching activity itself is driven by lack of oxygen and rise of carbon dioxide in the shell after the tiny external breakthrough or pip; that change in ambient air inside the still largely intact shell causes hatching contractions as the chick strives for more air, rotating as it probes the shell with its beak and pushing with its legs, resting between efforts.

The parents must look after their own needs before the hatch, after that there's a little time (several to 12 hours) before the chick will beg for food.

And after that.... it's a zoo of meeting perpetual demands for food, housekeeping and babysitting until a nestling's wings grow strong enough to start exercising them and venturing into branches above or adjacent to the nest structure.

Even after fledging, an eaglet must learn to fly well, where to fly to in order to catch their own food, and it needs to be shown how to hunt successfully. In the meantime the parents continue to provide some food while encouraging independence of the fledgling(s), which of course would rather be fed than have to make their own way to nail down some elusive chow that's still on foot or swimming or on the wing itself.
Absolutely fascinating; until I read these posts, I had had no idea that these eagle chicks had to make their own - probably quite demanding - way out of the egg. Thanks for sharing.
 

LizKat

macrumors 603
Original poster
Aug 5, 2004
6,429
34,940
Catskill Mountains
Well the proud parents have helped usher in eaglet B12, who checked out of shell a little before 11pm last night (Feb 18, 2019) and was kept warm and dry during a rain-showery night, with a nasty north wind swaying that big ol' pine tree. An update from the college popped up this morning with a fuzzy shot of the closely guarded hatchling. The other good news is that the new arrival is definitely the chick from the egg laid on Jan 8, and we know that because the other egg, of Jan 11, has now been pipped. They do always hatch in order they were laid. So one up and soon to be looking for food, and the other trying to get out to join the party. This is the Berry College bald eagle pair's 12th successful hatch.

Berry eaglet B12 has arrived.jpg
 
  • Like
Reactions: Scepticalscribe

LizKat

macrumors 603
Original poster
Aug 5, 2004
6,429
34,940
Catskill Mountains
Still a rain showery day happening... but here's a better snap of the B12 fluffball. Nifty how the parent has turned and piled up a grasses barrier against that nasty wind so the chick has a little room between the parent's body and the barrier but stays warm while the eagle manages the other egg now trying to finish hatching. The eagles have what's called an incubation patch in front where the feathers fall away during incubation, so the blood vessels near the breast skin there can warm the eggs or new hatchlings efficiently.

yep there's B12 fluffball.jpg
 
  • Like
Reactions: Scepticalscribe

LizKat

macrumors 603
Original poster
Aug 5, 2004
6,429
34,940
Catskill Mountains
Another update from the college... both eaglets of this season have now hatched out, and are being kept fluffy and warm despite ongoing horribly rainy weather. The college put up a pretty good snapshot of B12 and B13 being tended by a rather bedraggled looking parent this morning.

two fluffballs still warm and dry.jpg
 

LizKat

macrumors 603
Original poster
Aug 5, 2004
6,429
34,940
Catskill Mountains
Sweet! Can't wait for the gender reveal!
Yah, they grow fast too, so we may see soon enough if it's a brother and sister act. Otherwise it's very hard to tell whether it's two males or two females for quite awhile, and we have to wait to see if the eaglets get bigger than their Papa, since they're practically adult size while still being cared for in the nest. Then puzzle solved, as the male adult is smaller than the female.

Sometimes a chick of either sex will try to kill the other(s) especially if there's a food shortage. This seems unlikely in the case of the Berry eagles, as it hasn't happened before and there have not been more than two eggs in a clutch. Their nest is near river and lake water for fishing, and in a lightly forested area near a wildlife management area, so with other prey available. Would be an issue here only if one eaglet is very weak and then more a matter of failure to compete than being killed by direct effort of the sibling.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Scepticalscribe

LizKat

macrumors 603
Original poster
Aug 5, 2004
6,429
34,940
Catskill Mountains
Sadly the 2nd-borne of the two eaglets has died. College put up an update today.

EDIT: as of the evening of Feb 22, the college overlays an advisory on the nest cam output that the viewing stream currently includes images of the deceased eaglet B13, for those who may wish to avoid checking in on the nest cams for awhile.

Berry College update re B13 death.jpg
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Scepticalscribe

Scepticalscribe

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Jul 29, 2008
51,525
35,068
The Far Horizon
Sadly the 2nd-borne of the two eaglets has died. College put up an update today.

EDIT: as of the evening of Feb 22, the college overlays an advisory on the nest cam output that the viewing stream currently includes images of the deceased eaglet B13, for those who may wish to avoid checking in on the nest cams for awhile.

Thanks for the update, @LizKat.
 
  • Like
Reactions: LizKat

LizKat

macrumors 603
Original poster
Aug 5, 2004
6,429
34,940
Catskill Mountains
Oh man, that is sad.

It is sad. Both parents had worked so hard to keep the eggs warm and turned in all that horrible weather during so much of the incubation period this year.

One wonders if the very late hatch in both cases had anything to do with the death of the 2nd hatchling. Their in-egg development provides them with everything they need, but there's a reason why there's a normal range of incubation and it has to do with running out of both room and nutrients.

Perhaps it's just down to the long periods of drizzly cold weather and difficulty keeping them both warm and dry, or possibly bacterial infection during pipping process of the 2nd eaglet. All that damp underneath the fresher grasses, one chick already up and about for a bit, possibly being fed a few times, and the pipped hole in the other egg meanwhile..

Well it will be interesting to know what the fed and state experts have to say when they've looked into it as much as they can. So far the other eaglet, B12, seems still to be moving around and responsive to the parents' attentions, so that's good. If it's healthy it will grow like blazes with no competition in the nest. The year that just one egg from this pair of adults hatched, that eaglet got huge in a hurry.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Scepticalscribe

Scepticalscribe

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Jul 29, 2008
51,525
35,068
The Far Horizon
It is sad. Both parents had worked so hard to keep the eggs warm and turned in all that horrible weather during so much of the incubation period this year.

One wonders if the very late hatch in both cases had anything to do with the death of the 2nd hatchling. Their in-egg development provides them with everything they need, but there's a reason why there's a normal range of incubation and it has to do with running out of both room and nutrients.

Perhaps it's just down to the long periods of drizzly cold weather and difficulty keeping them both warm and dry, or possibly bacterial infection during pipping process of the 2nd eaglet. All that damp underneath the fresher grasses, one chick already up and about for a bit, possibly being fed a few times, and the pipped hole in the other egg meanwhile..

Well it will be interesting to know what the fed and state experts have to say when they've looked into it as much as they can. So far the other eaglet, B12, seems still to be moving around and responsive to the parents' attentions, so that's good. If it's healthy it will grow like blazes with no competition in the nest. The year that just one egg from this pair of adults hatched, that eaglet got huge in a hurry.
It will be interesting to learn what caused the death of the second youngster.

As I have already remarked earlier, I had no idea that the hatching process was so challenging for young baby eagles.

Fascinating story.
 
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.