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Eagle Watch: Ozzie, Harriet incubating two eggs

By Staff | Nov 26, 2014

For fans of North Fort Myers’ favorite bald eagles, the countdown is officially on.

Ozzie and Harriet have eggs in the nest on the Dick Pritchett property off Bayshore Road after Harriett laid two eggs over the past few days.

The first egg was laid at 2:07 p.m. on Wednesday, with the second one laid Saturday at 4:17 p.m., a little more than 72 hours after the first.

Incubation usually takes around five weeks. Assuming the eggs are viable, they would be scheduled to hatch around Christmas.

According to Michelle Van Deventer, an eagle expert with Florida Fish and Wildlife, it’s time to sit and wait.

“It’s not very exciting. About every hour or so, one of the adults will turn the egg to make sure the embryo doesn’t stick to the shell and make the egg equally warm,” Van Deventer said.

Van Deventer said the most fun part of this process is how delicately the eagles use their talons, which they also use to grab and tear away at their prey.

“They clench their talons and tuck away the back claw and gently ease themselves onto the eggs,” Van Devnter said, comparing it to how alligators, who can rip prey apart with their powerful jaws, gently move their young with their teeth.

Harriet will spend the most time with the eggs, while Ozzie goes to hunt for food.

Very rarely will be eggs be left unattended, and even then at least one eagle will be close by. That leaves them open to predators and to the elements, as the cold could make the eggs unviable, Van Deventer said.

“They will address any disturbance around the nest. That leaves eggs vulnerable to crows or raccoons, which are known to predate eagle eggs,” Van Deventer said. “We know how stealthy they can be.”

Due to the wide open spaces of the pasture, the eagles have always had a good view of potential dangers.

What they can’t control is the cold, which could make an egg unviable in as soon as 30 minutes, Van Deventer said.

“It doesn’t take long for things to go bad. Humidity is important for air exchange and if it gets real cold, it could impact development,” Van Deventer said. “The birds do an amazing job keeping the temperature constant.”

Of course, the egg laying has meant increased traffic for the Pritchett Eagle Cam.

As of Friday morning, the website had more than 600,000 views for the season (and more than 26 million views in its three-year history).

It has also meant more bird watching in the immediate area around the nest, where bird lovers have had their camera lenses and eyes attached to the birds.

If there are people viewing the nesting process, Van Deventer warns that people keep a safe distance and don’t flush them from their nests, as it may put the eggs in danger.

The eagle cam may be viewed at dickpritchettrealestate.com