For the first time since 1947, bald eagles are nesting in the U.S. National Arboretum, and they may have just welcomed eaglets despite all that snow and cold.
Officials were tracking a pair for the last few months and discovered that the birds have built a nest on a property. And with the belief that the nest had eggs, it is also right about time to expect bald eagle hatchlings. There are no cameras on the nest so officials can't be sure but judging by the behavior of the parents, eaglets are highly likely.
Dan Rauch from the District Department of the Environment has been tracking the parents since last fall. If eggs were laid in late January, factoring in the 35-day incubation would mean that they should have hatched. Wildlife experts who have also been observing the pair also noted that the female was maneuvering around.
"She was very careful where she placed her feet. She was very ginger, very deliberate where she was putting her talons," said Rauch.
If the female was watching where she walked, she could only be avoiding eaglets in the nest.
Typically, bald eagles lay one to three eggs at a time. Once hatched, however, eaglets will require more time to develop before they can leave the nest. In the early weeks of their life, eaglets are not only unable to feed themselves but they also can't control body temperature, thus relying on their parents for much of their care.
Aside from how the female was acting around the next, experts also pointed to the dynamics between the pair as clues supporting the presence of eaglets, like when the female left to take a break and the male flew in to take her place.
Rauch called it co-parenting, quite impressed that the pair are good parents as there hasn't been a time that the nest was left unattended.
It won't be for another three or four weeks before the eaglets gain enough strength to poke their heads out of the next and confirm their presence but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be flying over the area in the coming week to get a look at the nest.
Bald eagles are no longer on the endangered species list but federal laws are still in place to protect them. These laws mostly require that distance be kept from the birds so as not to disturb them, most especially during mating and nesting.
Photo: USFWS Midwest | Flickr