Wednesday in Bird World

One of the saddest things is seeing a parent bird look for their fledglings to feed them. That is precisely what WBSE Lady was doing yesterday. She flew around the salt marshes, around the river, and in the area where WBSE 27 (and maybe 28) were looking for them. She had a fish in her talon. With no luck she flew into the forest and left the fish on the natal nest in the old Ironbark Tree. Lady spent the night on that tree.

You can see the fish in the image below.

There is Lady sleeping in the tree on the parent branch. Is she sleeping there hoping that at dawn one of the fledglings will arrive for breakfast like they did before they flew off the nest?

Last year, Lady and Dad would come to the tree with fish trying to lure 25 and 26 back. Once 25 was chased out of the forest by the Currawong there was never another sighting of it. 26 did return to the nest after thrashing about the forest. She was exhausted, and, well, starving. She slept! I do not think that 26 planned to leave the nest the day she did. She flew over to the camera branch. A Magpie helped 26 keep the Currawong away but then, finally, they chased her out of the forest. There was a big storm that night with very strong winds and in the morning 26 was located on a 22nd floor condo balcony about a kilometre away from the nest. 26 was taken into care. There was great hope that she could be ‘repaired’ and become an ambassador bird but that was not to be.

Hopefully 27 will have a much better fate than 26. I hope that they will be able to give it fluids and antibiotics to heal the talons that have been injured. Maybe they will be able to release 27 near to the parent nest but not before it can fly strong. Send your positive wishes its way!

The chicks at the PLO Osprey nest had lots of feedings yesterday – six! They were at 6:39, 7:45, 13:42 (Mum brought it in), 15:01, 19:10, and 20:30. Wow.

I love the image below because of the crest on the chick on the right. Just gorgeous.

Here comes dad! Tiny Little is on the far left looking towards dad.

I do not think the chicks were expecting another meal but here comes the fish at 20:30.

Needless to say, these osplets are really well fed. All that fish is turning into feathers and the bulking up! Within the next 7-10 days they will be banded, measured, and fitted with satellite navigation systems. I understand there are three devices and since there are no other osprey chicks on the other nest (the eggs taken by the crows), then all three should have its very own little backpack.

Yesterday in Melbourne Mum had a terrible time trying to convince the four eyases that it was for their own good that they stayed in the shade of the scrape box. It will be 27 degrees today and no doubt she will be trying to corral them again into the shade. She tried hard to spread her wings to cover them from the glaring rays of the sun but with four it is really difficult.

They are very obedient. One cam running and you can see it pushing under Mum’s wing on the right to get to the shade.

It wasn’t long before the shade covered the entire scrape box area and Mum was not needed. I have often wondered if this is the reason she chose to lay her eggs at that end. Last year it was so hot – trying to keep cool herself as well as the trio was difficult. They were all panting trying to regulate their heat.

In the scrape box in Orange, little Yarruga cast a pellet at 5:55:30. Oh, this chick will be hungry and ready for more food. Wonder if the Starling’s leg was in that cast?? So what does this mean? A pellet is the indigestible material from the crop or proventriculus. Birds of prey or raptors regurgitate this material. Then they will begin to collect more as they eat. The casting of the pellet also cleans out the crop (the proventriculus or granular stomach).

It looks like the chicks are choking when they cast the pellet. It must scare them til they get used to this happening.

Yarruga feels so much better! Now if breakfast would only arrive!!!

It is early morning in Australia and Thursday is just starting for our bird families. I cannot think of anything more grand than having WBSE 28 land on the nest and let Lady feed it! That is really wishful thinking on my part. WBSE 27 will be eating well and by now should be really well hydrated. Warm wishes for a full recovery and return to the wild!

I have been alerted that the satellite tracking for Karl II’s family has not been updated since the 24th. I will be checking on that. It seems highly unlikely that all three of the birds have perished. I simply cannot imagine it. Udu was on Crete, Pikne was in Egypt, and Karl II had not transmitted since the 21st. Pikne’s battery % was quite low. If the GPS works on satellite transmission and it is overcast then the battery cannot function. As well, the birds can get in areas where transmitter signals cannot be picked up. I am so hoping that this is all one big malfunction! I will keep you posted.

It is pitching rain today on the Canadian prairies where I live and it is really, really welcome. The birds are still coming and going from the feeders despite the heavy drops. I noticed when I was picking up all the birdseed, peanuts, and corn cobs that the pet store version of a birdseed story had something interesting. It was a lovely metal holder filled with natural alpaca wool. The idea is that there are no toxins and the birds would pull out small skeins to help with their nest building in the spring. What a lovely idea as a gift for a birder friend! Bags of seed and suet blocks/cylinders would be welcome, too. Gosh. I cannot believe people are starting to get ready for the holidays. Ahhhh…by then Little Bob will have fledged and we will be watching him or her with the satellite tracking.

Take care everyone. Thank you so much for joining me today. See you soon.

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I took my screen captures: the Port Lincoln Osprey Project, 367 Collins Street Falcons by Mirvac, Sea Eagle @Birdlife Australia Discovery Centre, and Charles Sturt University Falcon Cam and Cilla Kinross.

An evening with Big Red, Arthur and the Ks

If you hear the name Ferris Akel, you might recognize the individual that gives a regular Saturday afternoon virtual birding tour of the area around Montezuma National Park, Wildlife Drive, Sapsucker Lake, and the Cornell Campus at Ithaca. Ferris also surprises us with ‘pop up’ tours of the Cornell Campus at other times so that he can see what is going on with Big Red and her family and share it with us. Tonight, we got a special tour and were able to see all four members of the Big Red family.

For those of you unaware, Big Red is a Red-tail Hawk. Red tail hawks are easily identified by their bright orange-red tail feathers once they are adults. The females are larger by approximately 30% than the males. This is called reverse sex size diamorphism. Red tail hawks have amazing eye sight. They will scan for food while they are soaring or are know to sit quietly on a perch for long periods of time watching for their prey. They will immediately fly to get it. Unlike the Peregrine Falcons who take their prey in the air, Red tail hawks normally fly down and get their prey on the ground. They do not normally eat carrion (dead animals) unless they are really starving. Their wing span is 1.2-1.5 metres for both males and females or 3.9 feet to 4.9 feet.

Big Red is a huge celebrity within the birding community. Big Red is now 18+ years old. She was banded near Ithaca, at Brooktondale, on 20 October 2003. Her current mate, Arthur, hatched in a territory next to the Cornell Campus in 2016. He has been Big Red’s mate since her mate, Ezra, died in March 2017. Arthur was first spotted visiting the nest in April of 2017. Big Red and Arthur were an ‘item’ by the fall. Their nest is on one of the light boxes across Tower Road from the Fernow Building. This year they hatched three chicks, the Ks. Two of the three fledged – this is the only time that Big Red did not have all of her chicks that hatched fledge. K2 sustained an injury to her right cheek and beak in the nest and had to be euthanized. She would never have been able to live in the wild nor would she have been able to have any quality of life in captivity. The two surviving chicks, K1 and K3, have already proven themselves to be excellent flyers and it looks like K1 has already had some successful hunts.

K3 on the nest. 21 June 2021. She was taken into care the following day.

Big Red was named after the territory she dominates, the Cornell Campus. She is also a large Red-tail Hawk with a lot of the beautiful rusty brown colour and bring orange-red tail feathers. In the image below she is beginning to become ‘Big Blond’ as she is moulting.

She is the matriarch. It is estimated that she has probably hatched chicks for fifteen years. Ezra was probably her first mate. If she hatched three chicks per year, that means that she has fledged 44. That is an incredible record! Sadly none of the chicks were banded so there is no knowledge of their whereabouts or status. A small number are known to have died after fledging. One was injured and is an ambassador bird for Cornell, E3.

Big Red is noted for her very dark plumage and that amazing red feathered apron.

Ferris first spotted one of the Ks on a light tower.

Big Red was spotted on the Water Cooling Plant.

You can see that her feathers look a little ruffled, untidy. This is the moulting.

Those piercing dark eyes just make you melt.

Can you spot the hawk? Seriously I believe that Ferris Akel has ‘hawk eyes’!

Oh, look it is Arthur! He is Big Red’s mate and is one of the most amazing hunters I have ever seen. He is also moulting!

This is K1 looking out. She is a really good flier and is also believed to have already made a couple of ‘prey kills’. Yesterday she had a little chipmunk and was doing a war cry when K3 came around hoping to get some of it. Normally if the bird is war crying they are the ones that caught the prey and will not share! Even if it is their cute little brother.

At first Ferris and the gang were not sure but once we saw the stripes on the tail, we knew it was K1. K3 has a muddy tail almost verging on red – a first for all of Big Red’s chicks.

K1 is gorgeous and very dark. These images are soft not because Ferris could not focus but because of the heat shimmer off the buildings.

And here is cutie pie, K3. All those little third hatches just soften my heart.

Oh, you wanted your sister to share her chippie and she told you to go and catch your own! Poor little thing.

And that was a wrap. Ferris persisted in finding all of the Ks and trying to get some good images of them despite the heat shimmer and the fact that it was getting dark.

Good night Big Red, good night Arthur, good night K1 and K3.

Big Red and Arthur are moving the Ks around the buildings on the Cornell Campus. They can now be found around the Water cooling buildings, Bartels, and across the ravine. It will not be long til they have them out by the buildings with the cows and the open fields. It is part of their training – enlarging their territory bit by bit. How do they do thus? Food is a great motivator and the adults will carry prey to different areas of the campus and the Ks will follow! It is that easy.

If you see the hawks coughing and shaking their heads and necks and something gets ‘thrown’ out of their mouth, this is called a ‘cast’. It is the bits and bobs of the prey that cannot be digested that is sort of compressed into a small pellet. The raptors cannot digest this and so they throw it up. This is properly called ‘casting a pellet’. This is with the exception of the owls that have a gizzard for digesting these parts of the prey.

It is now getting towards the last week of July. The Ks will be with us for a bit longer. I remember last year. Once J2 and J3 had been catching their own prey around the barns they began soaring. It was not long after that that J3 went poof and was gone with the winds to be followed by J2 the following day.

The last bit of news this morning is that Tiny Little and siblings were fed by White YW (dad) this morning. 462 was first followed by Tiny Little.

It is now around tea time, late afternoon, and Tiny Little has been like a ducking food crying in the nest for a bit.

Thanks so much for joining me. It was a great evening with Big Red and the Ks. They are progressing so well towards their own independence. Sadly, they do not get bands and we will not know where they go or what they do. Lucky for us Tiny Little is Blue 463! Take care all.

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I took my screen shots: Ferris Akel’s Livestream and Cumbrian Wildlife Trust and the Foulshaw Moss Osprey Nest.

Feeding Time

Sometimes parents feed the little ones and sometimes it is those lovely folks at the rehab clinics. Here is a screen shot of a video at a wildlife rehab clinic. It shows the sweetest little GHOW eating its dinner and the staff being ever so careful for it not to inprint on humans by using a GHOW puppet and tongs. The face of the person is covered as well.

A quick scan around the nests showed that everyone managed to go to sleep with a ‘crop.’ Raptors have crops. The only raptors that do not have a crop are owls. They have this really wide esophagus that helps them to swallow prey whole – think a whole mouse going down all at once! For all other raptors, the crop is properly called an ingluvies. It is a pouch below the esophagus that holds food before it goes into the stomach proper. Scientists are just beginning to understand how important the crop is for bird health. It doesn’t just store the food and moisten it but the crop plays a significant role in regulating the immune system of the birds. After the bird has softened all the food in the crop that can be digested, the bird will do a ‘crop drop’ when their gizzard is empty. Anything in the crop that could not be digested such as fur, feathers, teeth, claws, bones, etc. will be compressed into a pellet called a ‘casting.’ You might have even taken apart pellets in your science classes. They are a good way to study the prey in the area of the birds. When birds are ready to ‘cast’ a pellet, they often do not feel like eating. You might even see them in the process of casting out the pellet as they often appear to be slightly choking, especially when they are young. And you will have seen parents feeding little ones fur and feathers. Those actually help clean the crop.

One of the most challenging things for a first time Bald Eagle mother is feeding her new born bobble head. The eaglet is not strong enough to hold its head steady so it is constantly moving for the first couple of days. Add that to the fact that the eagle has a lateral visual field means that they can see from the side but not directly in front of them. So the mothers have to learn to tilt their head and their beak so that the little one can grab the prey.

The first time mother, Anna, on the Kisatchie Eagle Nest in Central Louisiana took a few days to figure this out. My goodness when she did, the feedings were remarkable. Louis, her mate, wins all the prizes for having a full pantry for Bald Eagles. One day there were eighteen fish. The little one – who just received its official name on St. Patrick’s Day -Kisatchie – is always full. Its crop was so heavy today that the eaglet simply fell over. It is a good problem to have. Many nests struggle from a lack of prey. In fact, many on the chat this morning were wishing some of this food could be sent over to the Duke Farms Bald Eagle Nest, including me.

In the space of an hour and a half, Louis filled up the pantry some more, just in case!

The little one’s mother persuaded it to have a few more bites. Its crop is so heavy it is sagging. Look carefully if you have never seen a ‘crop’.

The oldest eaglet at Duke Farms in Hillsborough, New Jersey has secured its dominant role on the nest. Today this worked to the advantage of the littlest who is very intimidated. The older one was fed the last bits of ‘something’. It had long dark feathers. I first thought of a crow but then a heron because of the legs. It is hard to determine a prey just from a pile of bones! The little one cowered and was looking the other way. The older was getting quite full and the mother determined that not another piece of meat could be found. So she moved over to a nice fish. By then the oldest was slowly going into a food coma. At first the little one stretched its neck – it was behind the big one. It did the quick snatch. Then when it realized the older one wasn’t interested, it made its way to a position where it could be fed easier. Oh, it had a nice full crop of fish! Lovely. You might have said it to yourself or even out loud if you have watched these smaller ones struggle that you can go to sleep now that they are fed. It certainly is reassuring to see that large crop. There could be a prey issue at this nest. Let us hope not!

The Osplets at the Achivea Osprey Cam in St Petersburg, Florida had a couple of decent meals today. One was around 9:30 and this fish came in around 7pm. It could well be too hot for fishing during the day. I am reminded that fish go deeper when it is really hot.

I worry about Tiny Tot. And that is because I have seen too many Osprey nests with three where the little one doesn’t ‘make it’. My chest even gets a little tight. Diane is, however, a remarkable Osprey mother. Everyone gets fed. That means that no single Osplet gets to eat til its crop is full and sagging at the expense of the others. Yesterday it was very hot and a fish didn’t come in til really late. Each lined up politely. They did the same thing today. Tiny Tot is the closest in the image and he let Diane know he was there and hungry! If you look carefully you can see his wide open mouth. Mum did not ignore him. Ideally the little ones are fed less food but more frequently but, sometimes the deliveries just do not work out for that kind of feeding schedule.

Clyde, the mate of Bonnie, are the pair of Great Horned Owls that stole the Bald Eagle nest in Kansas. They have two little owlets whose eyes are still closed. Clyde delivers the prey directly to Bonnie on the nest. It is usually a mouse or a vole. One evening he brought Bonnie a hawk! Bonnie lays the prey aside. When she feeds the owlets, she tears pieces off with her razor sharp teeth and feeds them. Within a couple of weeks, the owlets will have grown enough to swallow prey whole. They do not have crops. Their gizzard deals with grinding all the food and they will also cast a pellet of what cannot be digested. They will also be able to regulate their heat. Any day now their eyes should be open!


They were all full last night and some are waiting this morning depending where they are. Wonder if those owls will have their eyes open today?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone who celebrates. Thank you for joining me. Together we can all start learning how to say Kisatchie!

Thank you to the Achieve Credit Union in St Petersburg, Farmer Derek, Duke Farms, Kisatchie National Forestry Service for their streaming cams. That is where I took my scaps.

Milestones

Birds have developmental ‘milestones’ just like humans. Right now there are so many Bald Eagle nests where eaglets are already two or four weeks old. In others, the parents are incubating eggs. And there are others where the parents are only beginning to start working on the nests. You can see every stage of a Bald Eagles growth from the female laying the egg to their fledging from the nest on the many streaming eagle cameras. Every eaglet is different, just like people and their development will not happen on a single specific date.

Within the overall umbrella of bird development, you might remember Daisy the Duck (see previous blogs for more information on this remarkable little duck). This Black Pacific Duck laid her eggs in the Sea Eagles nest. We knew that the ducklings would jump from the nest 24 hours after hatching if we actually got to hatch – which, sadly, we did not. Those ducklings could see, forage, swim, and take care of themselves without help from the parent. Daisy would, still, gather them up and protect them during the night. Fully independent of their mother, those ducklings would have been ‘precocial’. In contrast, the eaglets are not fully developed, nor are they able to feed themselves, or fly down from their nest. Indeed, they are covered with fluffy down but are unable to regulate their temperature.

It takes from ten to thirteen weeks for eaglets to fledge whereas the ducklings do this at twenty-four hours. Eagles as well as all other hawks or raptors are ‘semi-altricial’. This means that they will be dependent on their parents for everything they need until fledge. Even after fledging, the parents will teach them to hunt and will provide prey supplements for them.

Until the onset of streaming cams, there was very little quantitative information on the development of Bald Eagle Nestlings. Today, there are cameras, often more than one, on nests around the world. You can, at any time of the day, watch Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, Golden Eagles etc. at your leisure. The growing community of citizen birders has impacted the knowledge of avian development and behaviour considerably. We are, indeed, continuing to learn every day. Advances in satellite transmitters means that birds can now be studied after leaving the nest providing much information about foraging, distance from natal nest to establishing their own territory, etc. This blog today is general and non-scientific in its terminology.

Many look at the development of Bald Eagles through three stages: structural growth, feather growth; and behavioural growth. Others attempt to combine feather growth with behaviour and structural development into weekly goals. In fact, I have pondered over this blog and how to approach it for several days because there are different factors that impact development. One of those is gender. There are also studies that have shown that the levels of salt in the diet impact growth while others have examined the amount and quality of prey. We know from studying Red Tail Hawks that if you double the amount of prey and the eyases remain in the nest for several days beyond the average, they are better equipped to fly and hunt. Their overall condition is much stronger. For the purposes of our discussion, I have used evidence from the NEFL Bald Eagle nest in 2021 and the SWFL Bald Eagle nest in 2021 and 2017 (E9). There is one eaglet on the NE nest and two on the SW nest in 2021. The parents on the NE Florida nest are Samson and Gabrielle. Samson was born on this nest on 23 December 2013. He is a little over seven years old. We do not know the age of Gabrielle. At the SW nest, Harriet is in her mid-twenties and M15 is 11 years old. Both nests are located within close proximity to a city – Fort Myers and St Augustine. The Fort Myers nest is unique in that the D Pritchett family has a working farm on the land where the nest is located. They also stock a pond in close proximity to the nest specifically for the eagles. This means that there is always food available. Still, the parents bring in road kill as well as fish from the pond. The NE nest does not have this advantage but nest observations reveal that there is an abundance of food although the variety might not be the same as the SW nest.

Both E17 and E18 were born on 23 January 2021. N24 was born on 8 February.

The first week of their lives, eaglets are covered with fuzzy down. The proper term is natal down. They can sit up but it is difficult to support their heads and focus. You can see the white dot indicating the egg tooth. This will disappear later. They use the egg tooth to break through the thick shell. This is often called the ‘bobble head’ phase. Their heads are big and they do not yet have the neck strength to keep them upright at all times. Their eyes are adjusting to focus. Sibling rivalry might already have started. As the days progress, the eaglets will get the strength to hold up their head and balance it. They will also be able to focus with their eyes so they do not look like they are using their beak like a dart but with a moving target (often their sibling). While the bobble head stage is very cute, it is often a relief when the eaglets are more stable.

SWFL nest 2021. Sibling rivalry began immediately. E17 is on the right and is only two hours older than the twin, E18. This rivalry persists but has dissipated to being only occasional and directly related to feeding.
The egg tooth is clearly present on the eaglet to the left.

By week two, the eaglets will be observed crawling out of the nest bowl. They are not walking. They are crawling. N24 is using its feet and wings to help it get out of the nest cup and up to the pantry. It is five days old! Food is a great motivator! Samson has the little one ‘working’ for its dinner. This helps to strengthen its wings and legs. In the Captiva Florida Eagle nest, Peace climbed out of the nest bowl towards the food on day 2. The inclines of both nests are different. The parents present the eaglets with challenges to help them develop their strength such as stretching their necks, grabbing and holding food, working their legs and wings. It’s like having your own personal trainer!

N24 crawling out of the nest cup on 13 February 2021, 5 days old

The beak will begin to grow and the little ones should begin shooting the ‘ps’ out of the nest bowl by the end of week one or beginning of week two.

N24 doing a great pose to get that PS clear of the nest. Watch out mom!

The eaglets are more observant of their world. They will have doubled in size from the day they hatched and their eyes and beak continue to develop. You will begin to notice that pin feathers are growing in at their wing tips. They will start to stand keeping their balance with these wing tips.

N24 12 days old. Notice the feathers coming in on the wing tip (left side)

More feathers begin to appear on the shoulders and the back and the wing feathers are getting longer as the days progress. They are starting to wing flap and they will try picking up food.

N24 wing flapping, 12 days old

N24 is twelve days old in the picture above and the one below. In the one below, you can also see the pin feathers right at the tip of the wing starting to come in. N24 is also standing for several seconds, getting its balance, and flapping those wings.

N24, 12 days old. Wing flapping.

During the third and fourth week, a pattern of accelerated feedings and growth begins. Head and chest are still showing signs of some fluffy down but more dark feathers are starting to emerge.

E17, SWFL Nest, Age 31 days

The eaglets are actively preening those feathers to help condition them as well as to help stop what some say is an itching as the feathers grow in. There is more wing flapping and the eaglets stand with confidence and stability. During this time you will see attempts at standing and walking. They begin to make some effort at self feeding. They are eating much more at each feeding often lunging at the parent to take the food out of their beak. Many observers say that their crops appear like they could burst! These big feedings often result in the eaglets sleeping immediately after a feeding. This is a ‘food coma’. The enlarged crops are extra storage spaces where food is held before being ‘dropped’ to the stomach. Sometimes people call this accelerated growth period the ‘clown feet’ era because the feet seem to grow way out of proportion to the rest of their body. They will also cast pellets. Pellets are food that is undigested such as fur and bones. Pellets are compressed into a hard shape and regurgitated. This often involves coughing and sometimes the eaglets appear not to want to eat the day the pellet is cast. This level of peak energy demands appears to begin to wane after about five to six weeks.

E18 has its wings dropped while sitting (eaglet on left). Crop is full. 23 February 2021.

Beginning around week five to eight, the eaglets often sit with their wings drooping (getting heavy). Hopping and flapping wings occurs more often. They are very interested in what is happening outside the nest. By the end of this period, they will begin to have more of their juvenile plumage colouration. They will be able to hold food and tear bits. They will begin to mantle food. Mantling is the covering of food with the wings in order to have the prey item to themselves. They will stand for longer periods of time and are able to walk easily by the end of the period.

From week nine to fledging. The feathers will become more defined over their entire body and they will stand for longer periods of time upright. They can stand easily on one leg. The hopping, jumping, and flapping of wings accelerates. They are self-feeding but the parents will also continue to feed them. They will now spend their nights sleeping upright like their parents with their head tucked under their wing. They can easily perch on the edge or rim of the nest and will be branching, hopping up to a branch and back down into the nest. Branching tends to occur from seven to ten days before fledging, generally.

Juvenile feathers are not all in. E9, 2017.
E9 Branching, 2017.
E9 trying out a thinner branch, 2017.

It is always exciting to see the eaglet hatch and sad when they fledge. Unless there is a transmitter or bands, they fledge and there whereabouts often goes unknown. Once they are wholly independent of their parents, the juveniles need to find their own territory and source of prey. Sadly, fifty percent of all first year eaglets perish while ninety percent of all year two eaglets tend to survive. The average age of maturity for Bald Eagles is five to six years although there is a young sub-adult male who is incubating his first eggs with his mate in Minnesota right now.

Thank you so much for joining me today. Stay safe. Be well.

Thank you to the Eagle streaming cams at NEFL and SWFL as well as the D Pritchett family. The scaps came from their streams.

The babies are home, the babies are home.

I have to admit that I was a little concerned about E17 and E18. How many days could they be in the clinic? how soon would their eyes heal? would Harriet and M15 accept them? Falcons have been removed from their scrape box and returned in five days with no problem and someone did tell me that an eagle had been away from its nest for treatment for eleven days with the parents accepting it fully. Remember, Laura Culley, the falconer, says that “worrying is nothing more than establishing the outcome in your mind before anything has happened”. I get it but it is really hard not to be concerned. The eaglets are so little and vulnerable.

Yesterday E17 and E18 arrived back at the nest at 9:20 am.

Joshua Tree loans their truck to return the eaglets. Image courtesy of CROW.
CROW returns eaglets on 5 February. Image courtesy of CROW.

The parents were off soaring and fishing. Harriet did not come to the nest for five hours. She was almost shocked to find her babies there!

This is a cute little video of the arrival. My heart broke and tears rolled down my cheeks when E18, the little one (facing its mother in the image below), runs to its mom.

Oh, my babies are home! Little E18 runs to its mother. Image courtesy of D. Pritchett Real Estate streaming eagle cam.

There has been a lot of discussion on FB about the aggression of the oldest one, E17 to E18. You will remember that E17 got time out when the pair were at the clinic having their eye infection treated. I will not say that aggression has stopped, it hasn’t.

Harriet and M15 have been together a long time and successfully fledged their eaglets. They know what they are doing. I am just a human without feathers and I cannot fly. M15 brought in a rabbit this morning. E18 ate first and she ate until her crop was about to pop. And then E18 fell asleep and guess what? Little E17 was fed. For those of you not familiar with Bald Eagles, it is often best to let the aggressive one get fed and fall into a food coma and then the other one can eat in peace. Both had full crops. And M15 has also brought in a fish to go with the rabbit for later feedings.

In the image below, E18 is being fed while E17 snores away. Nice to have a private feeding without any intimidation!

M15 feeding little E18 while E18 sleeps. Image courtesy of D. Pritchett Real Estate streaming eagle cam.

If you look carefully, you will see that E18, the eaglet farthest away from the parent, has a nice crop. The crop is a storage area for food in a raptor’s esophagus. Food sits in the crop waiting to be digested. Raptors do something called a crop drop that moves the food to their stomach. Sometimes you can actually see this happen if you are watching one of the streaming cameras. The food that cannot be digested is formed into a pellet and is thrown up. The proper term is ‘casting a pellet’.

I have a crop too: E18. Image courtesy of D. Pritchett Real Estate streaming eagle cam.

E18 is asleep and E17, that little stinker, is over by the parent. You can easily see its full crop (large dark grey sort of shiny area below its head). No doubt Harriet and M15 will feed them several times today.

It wasn’t quail but it was good. E18 is in a food coma and E17 has a bulging crop, too. Image courtesy of D. Pritchett Real Estate streaming eagle cam.

And while I was absorbed by these little fellas being returned to the nest, something wonderful, halfway around the world, happened.

On Midway Atoll, in the Pacific Ocean, a little Moli was born. But this isn’t just any Moli, it is the baby of Wisdom, the oldest known banded Laysan Albatross in the world. She is at least 69 years old. Wisdom’s mate is Akeakamai. Most Laysan Albatross return bi-annually to breed, lay their egg, incubate, and fledge their Moli. Wisdom and her mate have, since 2006, met every year on Midway. How remarkable! It is believed that Wisdom has now laid between thirty and thirty six eggs. Four years ago, in 2017, a chick that Wisdom hatched in 2001 made her nest just a few feet away from her mother’s nest.

In the image below, you can see the tiny Moli that had just hatched. It is 1 February 2021. Wisdom is out fishing and Akeakamai was there to welcome his little one. Wisdom is helping scientists learn about the longevity of Laysan Albatross. In fact, she is rewriting everything they thought they knew.

Wisdom’s Moli. Born 1 February. Image courtesy of the FB page of the Pacific Coalition.

One of the biggest challenges facing Laysan Albatross are rising sea waters and storm surges. Approximately half a million breeding pairs of Laysan Albatross lay their eggs and raise their chicks on the Midway Atoll. Midway is only eleven feet above sea level. While the rate of ocean rise is not yet enough to submerge the island, the increase in storms and flooding are of concern. In February 2011, ten years ago, a storm destroyed 40,000 nests at a time when the eggs were just hatching. A third of the entire population was destroyed. Because the albatross are faithful to the nest, they return, year after year, to the same location. This process is known as philopatry.

To help solve the problem of seas rising and storm surges, there are projects between the US Navy, the US Fish and Wildlife Services, and the Pacific Rim Coalition. They are working together to create a new albatross colony on Oahu, one of the Hawaiian islands. In 2017, fifteen five-week-old chicks were moved to Oahu to try and form a new colony.

Besides sea water, Midway Atoll is like the garbage can for all the plastic in the Pacific Ocean. And the birds eat it and they die. We need to do better. But, it’s Saturday and we will talk about that and sticky paper traps for mice on Monday. Today, let’s just feel good about the eaglets being home and having full crops and Wisdom’s healthy chick hatching.

One of the things that I love about the Albatross – it doesn’t matter which species – is how gentle and fun these big seabirds can be.

Here is a quick little video of their mating dance. Look! They do sky calls. Don’t you just wish you could dance like these two?

And last but not least, another smiling story for a cold, cold Saturday. The snow on the nest of the Bald Eagles at Duke Farm in Hillsborough, New Jersey is almost completely melted. Yippee. What a change from a few days ago when the mom was buried in snow during the nor’easter.

The snow is melting. Image courtesy of Duke Farms Streaming Eagle Cam.

The Polar Vortex has hit the Canadian Prairies and it is dangerously cold. We are being told to stay inside. The birds have been fed and I am going to hunker down with some nice hot tea and read a new book that arrived, Late Migrations. A Natural History of Love and Loss by Margaret Renkl.

Thank you for checking in with our favourite birds today. I needed to post some cheerful stories because marked on my calendar in big red letters is ‘hatch watch for Daisy the Duck’. Oh, how I hope she is paddling away enjoying herself. She gave us such joy and I know that many of you miss her as much as I do. Take care. See you soon!