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By the Numbers | 2017 Headlines | 2016 Headlines | Local Food News | Nest Cam

 

Nest Cam

This webpage follows the everyday lives of two American Bald Eagles named Mr. President (below left, known as MP) and The First Lady (below right, known as TFL).

In the fall of 2014, this newly mated pair chose to nest high up in a Tulip Poplar tree rooted amongst the Azalea Collection at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., which is owned by the federal government and operated by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.  In 2015, their first mating season together in Washington, MP and TFL successfully raised a single unnamed and unphotgraphed eaglet, referred to as DC1, with little ado.

The map below shows the National Arboretum (where the eagles' nest is located), Kingman Island (which first attracted MP and TFL to the area), and the Anacostia River (their prime fish-hunting waters).

Last year, the 2016 mating season, the parents returned to their nest and successfully raised two eaglets, DC4 and DC 5 named Freedom and Liberty (see photo below), but this time under the adoring glare cast by more than 60 million web views over the course of 5 months.  The first season of nest cam was a ratings triumph.

The eagle nest (seen in the photo below after nestorations were completed in early 2017) is approximately six feet wide by six feet deep.  The nesting tree is about 105 feet tall, and the nest is about 90-95 feet high in the tree. Tulip Poplars have a life span of up to 300 years, and most live between 100 and 200 years.  Wild eagles live up to 40 years.

The First Lady dropped her first egg (DC4) of the 2017 mating season just before 4:30 pm on February 19, 2017, and her second egg (DC5) a few days later just before 6:30 pm on February 23rd.  Mr. President was present for all the eggceptional events.

Egg-laying usually takes place about five days after successful mating during a two-week fertility window.

Eagles normally lay between one and three eggs per mating season, with two being very common as there are practical limits on the number of always-hungry eaglets that two parents can feed at the same time.

The normal incubation period is 35-40 days, so there are 5-6 weeks of patient brooding on the nest, waiting out winter's end, and hoping for successful hatches in early spring.

DC4 started pipping at 9:58 am on March 28th, and hatched at 7:21 am on March 29th.  DC5 started pipping on March 29th, and hatched at 1:50 pm on March 30th. 

The photo below shows DC4 two days after hatching and a few hours before DC5 hatched (note that DC5's pipping is well underway).

 

Webcam Link

Around-the-clock live-stream high-definition color and infrared monochrome camera feeds of the eagle nest and the goings on in and about it are available at dceaglecam.org.  Click on any photo on this web page to enlarge.

The photo below shows DC5 on the right not long after hatching, and DC4 to the left being fed by The First Lady.

 

 

Eagles in the News

When the National Bird Is a Burden, New York Times, January 19, 2017

Does the bald eagle's comeback spell bad news for other species?, The Christian Science Monitor, January 15, 2017

Freedom & Liberty, Late Spring 2016

 

Look at These Sweet Bald Eagles Protecting Their Eggs From the Snow, Audubon, March 14, 2017

Bald Eagles Make Big Comeback in San Francisco Bay Area, U.S. News & World Report (from Associated Press news feed), April 5, 2017

The photo below was taken on Easter Sunday after the day's big meal, and shows mom and dad looking adoringly upon their two eaglets -- the one to the left is sprawled on the uneaten remains of their holiday feast.

On May 3rd, following a public online vote, this year's eaglets were named Honor and GloryBoring, predictable, conventional and sad.  Worse, the three alternatives were Stars and Stripes, Anacostia and Potomac, and Peace and Harmony.  Yak!  Even the copycat-ish Beaky McBeakface and Flappy McFlapface would have been better.  The choice delivers painful truth to the notion that Washington is bereft of good ideas.

In the photo immediately below, the eaglest are drenched and sitting out a rain storm.  At bottom, sunnier times at the aerie.

 

 

The Reality of Live Broadcasts, the Nature of Supreme Beings, and the Existence of Aliens

On the afternoon of April 20th, with a storm front moving into the area, DC4's right leg became stuck in the crook of a small forked stick or branchlet forming part of the nest's upper bowl, and the eaglet could not extract itself from an increasingly dire predicament even with The First Lady's attempted assistance.  In all likelihood, if this had been an unmonitored nest, the 3-weeks-old eaglet would have eventually died.  But this nest has an awful lot of dedicated and impassioned viewers, including trained observers at the American Eagle Foundation

Two professional tree-climbers and an eagle expert with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, were brought in to rescue DC4.  The eaglet was disentagled and removed from the nest, and taken the next day to a veterinarian for a physical checkup, including a radiograph of the visibly swollen leg to make certain there were no lasting physical injuries. 

However, for well over an hour before that action was taken, images of DC4's hapless plight, and TFL's awkward and fruitless efforts to help, togther with the sounds of the eaglet's fornlorn wails and screeches, were broadcast live to all comers.  And then AEF decided to kill the transmission.  It was probably for the best.  At some point, the invisible line between entertaining and educational reality TV, and something otherwise, was crossed.

But here is the metaphysical question that comes to mind.  Given the chasm that exists between human and eagle brains and intelligence, what do the eagles think happened when the AEF and the USF&WS intervened at their nest?  Until then, this family of eagles had been living a blitheful and unaware Truman Show-like existence, then Batman-like bam! splat! pow! tragedy descends upon the nest, and, before you can double-blink your I Dream of Jeannie genie eyes, some great force suddenly and unnaturally removes one of the family members, subjects the detainee to mysterious and upsetting probes and examinations beyond all cognition as in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, affixes a permanent identification band to its ankle, and then returns the terrified creature after an unexplained disapperance and absence. 

Alien abduction anyone?  Can the eagles really go back to a carefree existence of soaring, fishing and hunting?  Not likely.

Immediately below is a night vision photo of The First Lady on sentry duty above the nest.  At bottom left is a close-up photo of Glory, and at bottom right the two siblings are resting on the nest.

 

 

 

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