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From the Nest

Updates from the PA Farm Country Bald Eagle Nest 

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Bald Eagles in Pennsylvania
Bald Eagle Wildlife Note
Bald Eagle Species Profile

Join the Game Commission in celebrating Pennsylvania's growing bald eagle population. Immerse yourself in this view from the top of a big sycamore tree nestled in Pennsylvania farmlands. Bald eagles are wild creatures and it is important for us to keep them wild. Please refrain from naming the birds to respect them as wild animals. Also respect the privacy of the birds and the landowners, to whom we are extremely grateful for their enthusiastic cooperation in allowing us to share this peek into the lives of bald eagles. Periodic updates will be posted here and in the livestream chat. Enjoy! And remember, nature can be difficult to watch.

History at this site:
Eagles have nested in this vicinity for at least 16 years. It is believed that when a nest collapsed about three miles away, the pair built a new nest at this location. The eagles nesting in this area have successfully reared three young most years. During 2020, the first season of live streaming, the nest held three eggs, arriving Feb. 13, 4:24p; Feb. 16, 2:31p; and Feb. 19, 3:03p. Two eggs hatched; the first eaglet was seen early on March 25 and the second early on March 27. One of the adults moved one of the eggs out of the nest on March 26, presumably because something was wrong with the egg. The first of the young eaglets fledged the nest on the evening of June 15. The second had a clumsy fledge the following morning, June 16.

Bald eagles in Pennsylvania:
The bald eagle's history in Pennsylvania is a precarious one. Only 36 years ago, there were a mere three nests left in the entire state. With the help of the Canadian government, the Pennsylvania Game Commission and several other states reintroduced bald eagle chicks from Saskatchewan to the Northeast United States. Today, Pennsylvania boasts more than 300 nests and the species is no longer state listed as threatened or endangered. They remain protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This 22-minute documentary tells the story of that success.

Learn more about Pennsylvania bald eagles at http://bit.ly/PGCEagleCam.


March 2, That's a Big Nest!
Bald eagles build among the largest nests of all birds, a massive and often conspicuous structure that is reused and refurbished each year. Nests are almost always near water, including islands, riparian woods, hillsides and swamps. The only nests on cliffs in Pennsylvania are actually supported by trees that grow on the side of the cliff. Eagle nests, called an eyrie, are a huge pile of interconnecting sticks, rubbish and cornstalks that support a cup of softer materials such as small twigs, grasses, mosses, weeds, sod and feathers. Sprigs of greenery, especially conifer branches, are sometimes found in nests and can be delivered to the nest during the incubation or nestling periods. Typically, stick nests are 5 to 6 feet in diameter, 2.5 to 4 feet deep and conform to the shape of the tree where they are built, the shape ranging from cylindrical to conical to flat. Some nests have reached huge dimensions including one in Ohio that was 9 feet in diameter and 12 feet high, weighting about two metric tons; it was used for 34 years. Adults will continue using and seasonally adding material to the same nest for years. With damage by storms and rambunctious eaglets, nests often need extensive repairs each year. Learn more.

February 17, How much snow will an eagle allow to accumulate on its back before shaking it off? 
Several inches of snow has been predicted for tomorrow. Snow on an eagle nest is not cause for alarm. More than 300 other bald eagle nests across the state have also experienced snow, ice and wind this winter and in previous years and the population continues to soar.

Adult eagles deal with cold temperatures by fluffing out their feathers for insulation, tucking in their beak and breathing that warm air back into their feathers, and finding protected areas to roost.

What about the eggs? The nest itself has been well insulated by this experienced pair.  And, eagles develop a brood patch just for the purpose of warming eggs. It is an area on the eagle's chest without feathers that contains numerous blood vessels. The brood patch allows the adult eagles to easily transfer heat from themselves to the egg(s). Female bald eagles have larger brood patches than males, which implies that the females do a larger portion of the incubation and brooding.

February 9, How many eggs are there?
Bald eagles generally have a clutch of one to three eggs with two the most common clutch size. One egg is laid per day, but not always in successive days, with the clutch completed in three to six days. Last year, the female at this nest laid an egg every three days until she had a clutch of three eggs. On that schedule, she would have laid a second egg yesterday, Feb. 8. (Perhaps in the evening, though we didn't get a good look).

Incubation begins with the first egg. Both adults have brood patches, but that of the female is better developed than the male presumably because she does more brooding. The incubation period is generally 35 days in length, but there is some variation. That puts the first egg hatching around March 12.

February 5, First egg!
A handful of viewers caught the arrival of the first egg at around 2:15 PM. The female lays two eggs (sometimes only one and occasionally three) during the span from February through April. Eggs are about 2¾ by 2½ inches, dull white and unmarked. Both parents incubate, with the pair taking turns at the nest. If all goes well, the eggs begin hatching after about 35 days.

January 30, Staying warm is for the birds!
It is cold and windy outside and there is snow in the forecast. How do birds stay warm?

  • Their feathers play an important role. Birds fluff up their feathers to trap pockets of air close to their bodies. Their body temperature keeps the air warm.
  • When birds preen, they distribute oils on their outer feathers to help shed water and keep the downy feathers close to their body dry and warm.
  • Birds can even restrict blood flow to their legs and feet to keep the warm blood circulating to important organs

January 29, Eagles on Ice!
Check out the live cam at Middle Creek that soon will be streaming thousands of migrating snow geese. Immature bald eagles have been temporarily calling Middle Creek home. Four immature bald eagles were observed resting on the lake ice as they "observed" the tundra swans and Canada geese avoiding the wind. View the cam and learn about Middle Creek.

January 22, Where are Pennsylvania's eagles?
Here is a map of approximate nest locations (2017). If you see a nest, complete the Bald Eagle Nest Survey online to help monitor the statewide population: https://pgcdatacollection.pa.gov/baldeaglenestsurvey
eaglenestlocations2017.jpg

January 13, Seeing Eagles in Pennsylvania?
The incredible recovery of bald eagles means we need your help monitoring them. Please let us know about the nests you see. By adding together everyone’s observations we can better identify all the new nests and track eagle productivity in the state. Complete the Bald Eagle Nest Survey online: https://pgcdatacollection.pa.gov/baldeaglenestsurvey

December 31, What's for dinner? Fish, either caught live or scavenged as carrion, make up 60 to 90 percent of a bald eagle's diet. Bald eagles also eat birds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. Living in farm country provides for additional food resources from local farms, like chickens. Eagles soar above the water or sit on a perch, and when they spot a fish near the water's surface, they swoop down and snatch it in their talons. They use their talons for killing, and their heavy bills for tearing prey apart for eating. Learn more in our Eagles and Osprey Wildlife Note.

December 29, European starlings: The black birds that congregate together at the nest are European starlings. There are more than 200 million in North America today, all of which descend from 100 birds released in the 1890s in New York City’s Central Park.

20201229 starlings.jpg 

December 28: The cam is back online!