Yesterday, a drama played out before our eyes. We had the Decorah Eagle Nest Camera on the screen of our laptop in the kitchen while preparing dinner. (In case you have been living on another planet and are not responsible for one of over 11 million visits to the site, this nest, located 70 feet above the ground next to a fish hatchery in Decorah, Iowa is monitored by a video camera 24 hours a day. The camera looks down into the nest and provides tack-sharp streaming images of a pair of Bald Eagles during the breeding season. As of this writing, two of the three eggs has hatched, the first on April 2nd and the second only yesterday, April 3rd.)
Yesterday afternoon I happened to look at the screen just as the male eagle got up from brooding the two eaglets and the remaining egg. He fed the chicks, and then seemed to be cleaning stuff out of the nest, when he either mistakenly picked up the older of the two chicks by its leg, or the little chick grabbed unto the adult’s bill. Reflexively, the adult bird shook its head and tossed the chick, which landed at the periphery of the nest.
I immediately started capturing screen shots.
The male parent’s action was entirely accidental, I’m sure. Luckily, larger branches form a sort of fence around the nest that kept the downy eaglet from falling to the ground. The male looked on helplessly as his little chick cheeped and tried unsuccessfully to climb up the wall into the nest cup.
The egg and the younger eaglet are together inside the nest
cup, while the other eaglet is separated from them by the wall of the
nest cup, down the deep slope to the right of this image:
Repeatedly, the chick failed in its attempts to climb up over the edge of the nest cup, falling back each time. Despite its constant distressed cheeping, the male parent stared at the chick, but appeared to ignore the plight of the little chap:
Finally, the female (foreground) arrived to take up brooding and incubation duties. The eaglet was still out in the open and immobile, exhausted by its efforts and possibly feeling the effects of exposure to the cold:
At first, the mother eagle seemed oblivious to the plight of her chick. As eaglets are incapable of regulating their temperature at this age, it faced certain death from hypothermia if it was not quickly returned to the shelter of its mother’s wings:
The female parent started nibbling on the edge of the nest cup, as if trying to clear a path, then she reached out and gently rolled the chick up the incline and into the nest cup:
It had seemed like an eternity that the baby eagle had been stranded out in the cold, but it was only for about 15 minutes. After warming up for an hour or so, the eaglet begged vigorously and ate heartily:
Both chicks had a tug of war over one chunk of meat:
Now watch the mother eagle rescue her baby in real time (You Tube video by Eagle Cam Fan):