The death of an eaglet has shocked and disturbed viewers watching a wildlife webcam.
The Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI) maintains the Maine Eaglecam1, a camera streaming live images of bald eagles nesting and raising offspring. In one nest, parents abandoned the nest, leaving a pair of chicks behind, unable to feed or care for themselves.
One of the two chicks in the nest perished sometime over the weekend of 21-22 June. The surviving chick is being cared for by adult eagles, and appears to be in good health.
Many viewers and others contacted BRI, urging the group to remove the remaining chick to safety. The group has decided to keep the young animal in the wild.
"[I]t is ALWAYS best for young eagles to develop bonds and learn life skills from parent eagles. Though there is always uncertainty in the natural world, all signs point toward this chick being successful," BRI managers wrote in an official statement about the death.
The Biodiversity Research Institute has a goal of recognizing emerging threats to wildlife, and assisting species in overcoming challenges. They also play a role in informing political leaders about new research in environmental science and conservation.
The group explained that although it is tempting to intervene in cases where animals are dying, it is a bad idea for the species as a whole to prevent the deaths. There are also legal issues involved in taking the chicks from the wild, as the state has a policy of non-interference in such cases.
Such events are common in nature, wildlife conservationists contend. Eagles lay one to three eggs at a time, and even one eaglet surviving to adulthood is considered to be a success.
Bald eagles, the national bird of the United States, nearly went extinct 50 years ago. The animals were put on the endangered species list in 1963, just as the Beatles came to America. At that time, there were just 417 nesting pairs, a number which rose to 9,789 by 2007, when the species was de-listed.
Eagle nests can be 10 feet across, and weigh up to 1,000 pounds. They are built high in tall trees, often near water. Nestlings learn how to fly when they are around three months old, and leave the nest 30 days later.
Eaglecam1 shows one of 600 nests in Maine, tallied during a 2013 census of breeding locations in the Pine Tree State. The number of nesting spots for the birds has been increasing over the last few years, suggesting continued population growth.
On 25 June, the camera showed an adult eagle, which shredded food for the hungry youngster. The young eaglet squawked loudly as it was being fed.