April 23 notes: TRIPLETS (3 eaglets hatch!)
Several astute observers of our live-streaming video recently reported glimpses of a third eaglet. We agree!! Finally this morning, I clearly saw a third fuzzy little head rise above the nest rim. Wing Goodale at BRI captured this great shot from the eagle cam archive tape showing a feeding of the triplets later that day.
As Bucky and Mark have both noted earlier in our Biologists' Journal, significant hurdles remain for the survival of all three. Adequate foods for rapid eaglet growth, no disturbances that displace adults from the nest, no adverse weather spells, and low dietary exposure to contaminants are all important to survival of our triplets. Last year, only one nest in Maine successfully reared 3 eaglets to fledging.
For viewers that rely on the still-image updates, extra patience may reveal all 3 young eaglets. There is a slight depression in the nest bowl (the soft lining at nest center) that hides smaller, prone nestlings. Be on the alert at feeding time, because eaglets sit upright and crane their necks upward to be the first in line for feeding. The adults will likely stand to grapple delivered food or may change places with one another: either way, eaglets may suddenly be more visible!
Barb called me to attention at 8:20 this morning as the image update revealed a standing adult with its head turned sharply and beak wide open: something is up! Either this is a greeting to a mate (maybe arriving with a meal) or an alarm call to an intrusion. The next refreshed image 30 seconds later revealed one eaglet straining for the first food morsels shred by an adult bent low over the nest. After 2 more image updates, the head of a second eaglet emerged. After an interval of 6 minutes (12 image updates since the first signs of breakfast), the third eaglet wanted a turn! This order of dominance will likely last for another week or two. By that time, larger eaglets should be visible except when being brooded or shaded by a parent.
Management comments: The availability of foods is a major influence on nesting outcomes. Nest locations close to the food supply are optimal so nesting along shorelines is always preferable. Notes by Edie Miles, a technician observing a Penobscot County nest during our research years ago, reveal a key advantage of nesting close to the food supply: "I had not seen the other adult for several hours when the female arose from her brooding posture over the eaglet. In one fluid motion, she stood and launched into flight over the river .... returning 30 seconds later with a fish! Not only was she guarding the eaglet in the male's absence, the female was also watching for a fish to rise."
When an adult is facing away from the eagle cam at this site, it is scanning adjacent coastal waters and tidal flats. We hope those keen eagle eyes find enough meals for the eagle cam triplets. -- Charlie Todd, Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife