Big’s 5-minute frenzied attack on Middle at Dale Hollow

In my review of the day’s happenings, I note that each time a feeding took place or on one occasion when a parent simply moved a fish, and another when Middle did absolutely nothing, Big began physically attacking the younger sibling. Big’s crop was completely full on several of these occasions. Middle has learned to be careful and to move around watching. Middle even stood on a piece of fish and pulled off some pieces today. That was wonderful!

What is worrying is that despite food today and both with full crops, Big continues its rampage. In fact, the last attack today was the most frenzied and the longest (5 minutes) since Big killed Little Bit and turned on Middle.

Both had crops by 17:30. Big had eaten first then Middle.

WARNING: There are images showing Big beaking Middle.

At 17:56:05 Obey delivers a fish to the nest. Both chicks are so full that despite River’s calling, they don’t even think about eating.

Obey leaves the fish by Middle along the edge of the nest. It is a fair size Sucker with its head.

River goes to move the fish over for a feeding at 18:22:15. Big begins her attack on Middle. This is meant to completely intimidate the younger sibling from eating and is referred to as ‘sublethal’ fighting.

It is a good time to stop and look at the size difference between the two siblings in the image below. Big is an enormous eaglet. According to Mock, Drummond, and Stinson in their article, “Avian Siblicide” published in American Scientist, “…the size difference between siblings was important in determining the outcome of bouts of sibling aggression. When the size difference was large early in the nesting period, the first-hatched chick almost invariably pecked, bit, and thrashed the second-hatched chick into submission (189).” In the Dale Hollow nest, Big turned on both but focused her attention on killing Little Bit. She then turned on the second sibling, Middle. It is believed as the size difference decreases, so will the frequency of aggression. Big requires lots and lots of food. They are both 25 days old today and are entering a period of super growth. Will Big’s growth slow? and Middle’s increase? We can hope.

Look at the difference in size between her wing and Middle’s – even the tail and head are more than twice the size. Middle would be killed if he tried to fight her – and for what? He finished eating about half an hour before this fish lands on the nest. He had a nice crop. Best to hunker down, hide his head and hope that she gets tired of attacking him and goes to eat.

It is clear that Big actually enjoyed the frantic beaking. It lasted from 18:22:15-18:27:42. That is almost five minutes. This is an increase in not only time but the amount of beaking in the frenzy.

Big tried to reach over Middle so that he could get to his head.

Then he physically moved so he could. Big was determined to not only frighten but, it appears, to injure his sibling despite the fact that his crop was full and he had eaten in the last hour.

That is the longest attack since the ones the day Big killed Little Bit. Middle is terrified and does not hardly move during the entire time that River fed Big. Middle really needs a huge growth spurt to help it counter these attacks. It is well know that once it reaches a larger size, Big will no longer be able to fatally injure it.

Once River finishes, Middle raises its head cautiously. You can see that there is a large portion of fish remaining. Obviously enough for a calm feeding for two! So why is Big amping up the frenzied attacks on Middle today? This is the worst one yet.

Sweet little Middle looks over at its sibling. Does it wonder if it is safe to move?

River flew off and Big fell asleep. Middle is looking around from the centre of the nest by Big.

River flew in. She did not feed either chick. She is brooding them.

It has been quite an unnerving day on the Dale Hollow nest. The eaglets were not fed til late and this clearly agitated Big whose attacks on Middle during the day increased in their time and frenzy. Let us hope that tomorrow is a better day for our little Middle.

Thank you for joining me. I am sorry that this is not a joyful jumping up and down report. This nest is still very unstable and anything can happen, sadly. Take care everyone.

Thank you to the Dale Hollow Eagle Cam where I took my screen captures.


  1. Linda Kontol says:

    Mary Ann Bigโ€™un is attacking its sibling middle for no real reason since they both have had crops. It isnโ€™t from hunger. Big must be jealous and donโ€™t want anyone else to eat. She wants it all!
    I am continuing prayers for middle. We never know what to expect from Big!
    ๐Ÿ™. Thank you for this report. I pray tomorrow will be a better day and fish will be brought in by the truck load!

    1. Dear Linda, You are absolutely right. This nest is so unstable in its feeding – how many nests do not have a fish on the nest in the morning? It is certainly not ordinary and I am so thankful for all the little eaglets for that. Keep the prayers coming for Middle because even tho it is growing and filling out so is Big. I wish that the news were better at the end of the day. I could not believe it.

  2. Lily says:

    Such a sad situation for Middle. All we can hope for is that Middle will get large enough so h/s won’t be in danger of being killed. Sadly I don’t think Big is going to change. The unpredictability will continue. Hopefully the better days will become more frequent. Middle endured serious beaking today and if h/s were a little younger who knows what would have happened. I pray for Middle, I can’t imagine h/s continuing fear, having to be so close to Big all the time. What a mess.

    I also feel for River and Obey. They are elderly and it must be hard on them to continually hunt to bring in food for chicks and themselves. They have been a successful eagle pair for a long time so this must be an anomaly with many factors playing into it, Also something else I thought of. The other two elderly eagle moms, Harriet and Liberty, both have young mates who are great providers. Guardian is amazing and so is M-15. I wonder, because both Obey and River are old, if that is what is making the difference? I guess we may never know.

    The rest of the nests are a joy. It is such a stress reducer having the opportunity to catch a glimpse into the lives of these amazing raptors. I’ve had a life long love for them.

    1. Dear Lily, Thank you for a very considered and thoughtful letter stretching to consider all the possibilities of what is happening on the Dale Hollow nest. Every aspect must be considered. I watched River this morning encourage Middle to eat and it was clear that they had both eaten earlier as they had a crop. I was hoping that there were a pile of Suckers somewhere that Obey could bring in. It is difficult to know about Obey’s abilities because we never see the adults eat on the nest with the chicks at Dale Hollow. Obey often brings in fish with heads so he is not eating them. The parents appear to be well nourished. Because they do not eat on the nest with the chicks it is impossible to know how much prey comes in and of that how much do the chicks get. Intruders, etc. so many factors. Certainly having a young mate is working out for many nests including the RTH, Big Red and Arthur. She is 19 and he is 6. And then there are the eagle nests. Guardian is wonderful. Redding is a great nest. I am also watching Dulles-Greenaway. Great kale but I have to admit that Cheta’s complete 360 on the West End nest is warming my soul. I mentioned age because it could be a huge factor – or not. I am trying to get some answers. I wish we did as it would make the situation clearer. We can hope beyond hope that Middle grows much much more quickly and Big plateaus…I note that they are 24 days old today. I had erroneously added +2 to that. We have about a week or two to go. If Middle holds in there he will be clever and strategic and survive to fledge! So glad you are enjoying the birds. Despite what is happening at DH, they bring us such joy and when Middle triumphs it is wonderful, too!

  3. Celia Aliengirl says:

    Good morning Mary Ann,

    Sorry I didn’t take the time to reply sooner, but please know that I read you daily
    and it is also a real pleasure to discover other nests that you follow at the same time.
    You are doing a great job and I personally congratulate you,
    Thank you so much Mary Ann.

    My first nest I followed was “๐—ฃ๐—ถ๐˜๐˜๐˜€๐—ฏ๐˜‚๐—ฟ๐—ด๐—ต ๐—›๐—ฎ๐˜†๐˜€ ๐—•๐—ฎ๐—น๐—ฑ ๐—˜๐—ฎ๐—ด๐—น๐—ฒ” in 2021,
    it was a great experience very informative, educational and rewarding,
    This year, I decided to follow “Dale Hollow”, hoping to develop more knowledge,
    Unfortunately the chat has been disabled on youtube,
    so it is difficult for me to understand and or get answers to my questions
    especially when a tragic event happens, like Siblicide,
    and the older chick is still aggressive a week after the fact.

    You are the only person from whom I can try to understand
    and/or get answers to what is going on, thank you very much Mary Ann for it.
    I also did some personal research that led me to the same assumptions
    about the various factors.
    I hope DH15 will grow more and DH14 will settle down for good.

    I can tell you for me that this nest is hard to look at,
    I have shed many tears, and my heart still hurts.
    I pray every day for this nest.
    Take care of yourself, my greetings from Belgium.

    1. Dear Celia, Thank you so very much for your letter and for also getting in and doing your own research on the topic of siblicide, food competition. While it is difficult to watch, there is often much to be learned by the nests that are having great problems like DH is this year. Pittsburgh-Hayes is a fantastic nest as are the stable ones of Harriet and M15. I am particularly fond of the West End this year because Akecheta is doing so amazing. We live in the hope that Middle will become more clever, bigger, and that more fish will come on the nest. I note that he has been fed this morning prior to when I turned on the computer and ate again after Big had a fish to itself. I am hoping that Big’s growth will plateau and Middle’s will increase. Still a day at a time but always hopeful! I hope that you will enjoy checking in on Big Red and the peregrine falcons – a whole new experience from the eagles!!!!! Have a lovely evening. It is lovely to hear from you.

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