Tears of Joy. Dale Hollow 15 is fed!

Saturday 19 March 2022

I had prepared myself for having to write a tribute for the Middle Hatch, DH15, later tonight. Since the eldest sibling, DH14 killed the youngest, Little Bit or Tater Tot, DH16, Big has taken its wrath out on the Middle Chick on the nest. This morning DH15 had a few bites of fish – seriously only a couple – and was mauled many times by Big who refused to let it eat or even get near the food pantry. At the same time, River ignored Middle’s cries for food even when he was trying to pick blood off her talons. Middle even resorted to trying to eat the hay with fish juice on it to no avail. There was plenty of fish on the nest – plenty.

Middle wants to survive.

Bald Eagles need to fledge one healthy chick. If that is the case, then why do they lay more than one egg? One old timer called these ‘insurance’ eggs or a better concept for humans is the ‘heir and the spare’. If something happens to the eldest, then there is the ‘spare’. If the spare and the youngest sibling happen to survive, it is like a gold star of success for the Bald Eagle family. I am certain, at some time, you have been very impressed by a raptor family that was able to raise three fledglings.

So let us think about this ‘insurance’ chick by looking at the Captiva Osprey Nest. Imagine this scenario. It didn’t happen but it could have. Big Bob refuses to let either Middle or Little (or Little and Mini Bob) eat. In fact, Big did eat all the fish leaving Lena, Middle, and Little without for a period of nearly 72 hours. Middle and Little survived. But, for now, imagine that the two siblings perished. Then Big Bob dies mysteriously. Which he did. The Osprey nest has then been a failure. It would, thus, not have been advantageous to Andy and Lena for Big to have killed its siblings. It would have been the third nest failure in a row. Thankfully, this did not happen!

With Avian Flu running rampant along the East coast of the US, Florida, and spreading, it is not an advantage to River and Obey if Big DH14 kills DH15. They eat carrion and have even brought a Crow to the nest for food. That Corvid could easily have been carrying H5N1. So it made no sense to me today when River refused to acknowledge Middle’s cries for food. There was 2/3 of a huge fish on the nest! Big was so full he could barely walk.

Tonight, Big was fed til it passed out. And then something wonderful happened! At 17:57:52 Middle, DH15, was fed. It ate all of the remaining fish and the feeding stopped at 18:12:38. That was a really nice feeding – one that could mean the difference between life or death for Middle. Then, miracle of all miracles, Middle Bob has a crop!!!!!! The tears poured down my cheeks. I felt delirious with joy.

Here are some images from this feeding.

Big has eaten and eaten and has an enormous crop. There is fish left over. Big is going to go into a sort of food coma. Little is in total submission. It has really been pecked and tossed about by its neck today. Middle has to be terrified. He knows what happened to Little.

Little quietly goes up to the food table hoping that River will not leave and might feed it. Middle is careful not to wake Big.

And look at this! Did I say this nest needed a miracle? or did I say I was losing faith in a miracle happening? This is a miracle. I am so happy to be wrong!

Big raises his head and sees Middle eating but he is too full to do anything.

Meanwhile, Middle cannot believe how good that fish tastes. He was very dehydrated pecking at River’s beak last night trying to get some saliva feeding.

River gets into a different position but continues to feed Middle.

Big is still watching.

Little got some nice pieces of fish.

River offered Middle a big hunk of fish skin. He is trying to hork it down in the image below.

River roots around and finds a little more fish and feeds it to Middle.

Just look at that crop! I have never seen Middle have a crop this size. Amazing. Thank you, Mum.

Have we turned a corner in this saga?

The feeding and Middle moving to the rim of the nest did not, however, escape Big, DH14. He did attack him over a period of five minutes before River rounded them up so she could brood them for the night.

Middle needs to eat and get strong and have a ps. But the other issue that remains is that there is no place on this nest to avoid Big. Tonight, Big and Middle are 22 days old. Middle will grow if given food and he should be reaching the point to where Big is not a threat. Middle is underdeveloped because of a lack of food, though.

But this was a good day! And maybe, just maybe, this good day will lead to another then another and then another.

Send all of your positive wishes to Middle for lots of fish tomorrow and a day out of sight of Big.

Thank you for joining me. It is so nice to bring good news to you about this nest. For today, Middle has eaten well and is alive. One day at a time. Take care everyone. See you soon.

Thank you to the DHEC for their streaming cam where I took my screen captures.


  1. Pamela LaBrake says:

    Thank you for this wonderful posting. I was in tears watching the tiny one being brutalized and prayed for it to pass fast. Then watching middle one not eating and so very scared was SO glad it was able to finally have a real meal today. I have been watching the Big Bear webcam for a couple years so not used to a nest with three eaglets. Let’s pray middle does get stronger and makes it.

    1. Dear Pamela, Thank you so much for writing to me and for caring about Little Bit. I felt the same. I wanted the suffering and pain to end. I used to think that when storks look at their chicks on the nest and know they can only feed 3 and not 5 that dropping them off the nest was barbaric. Compared to the horror that Little Bit and Middle endured and are enduring. the Storks are merciful. I never thought I would say that. Let us all hope that Middle’s days are good and that there is a real turn for the good on this nest. Take care.

  2. Lily says:

    I’m absolutely stunned by the happenings on this nest. I watched a video of Big brutalizing both Little and Middle. For years I’ve watched eagle nests and never have I seen an eaglet so aggressive, especially when it’s obviously stuffed to the gills with enormous crops.

    I had heard Middle had a good feeding today but didn’t know the particulars. Thank you so much for your wonderful post on Middle’s miraculous feeding, Seeing that huge crop made my heart sing. The only goal now is to keep Middle alive and eating long enough to gain strength to be able to hold h/s own against Big. We need more miracles for little Middle to survive this. Hopefully Mom will continue to feed the baby as she did today. Praying for Middle. God bless Little, who is safe now and free from the terrible torment h/s received from it’s sibling.

    1. Dear Lily, Your prayers are working. It was another good morning for Middle. I am cautiously optimistic which, as I mentioned to Sabine in an earlier comment, is the opposite from yesterday. Keep sending warm wishes we might be on to a page turner on this nest. Sadly, we will feel Little and Middle’s pain for a long time. It was horrific. But…Middle did really well this morning. So we will take it a few hours at a time! Take care and thank you so much for writing to me!

  3. Sabine says:

    Mary Ann, this post makes me so happy! Well, as happy as anyone can be given the circumstances. I hope from the bottom of my heart that River will continue to implement this strategy – feeding the Big full to the brim and then devoting the time to feed the Middle chick. I would so love to see tandem feedings – they work so well in other nests. Eagle Country’s Abby and Blazer use this method quite often, and both chicks are thriving. Keeping my fingers crossed!

    1. Dear Sabine, Your good wishes are working! I was up early to make sure I did not miss any deliveries and the morning up to 10 am has been good. River even encouraged Middle to eat and to snatch and grab bites meant for Big. I am cautiously optimistic which is the polar opposite of what I was this time yesterday. We wait and hope! Thank you for taking the time to write the letter. I adore the parents who tandem feed. It seems like their nests thrive, as you mentioned. That reminds me I need to check on Abby and Blazer. Take care.

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