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Hatchings end week of drama for eagles Ozzie and Harriet

By Staff | Dec 31, 2014

It was an interesting week for North Fort Myers’ most popular non-humans.

Their two offspring hatched over the weekend. But first, eagle watchers were clinging to their seats over the condition of Harriet, who fell ill early last week.

Mom slowly recovered, and her first eaglet, named E5, hatched Friday afternoon, more than 12 hours after the pip was seen and roughly 36 hours later than the usual 35-day incubation period.

Less than 24 hours later, E6 popped out of its egg.

As for Harriet, it was a tough go for her. On Sunday morning, she seemed to be acting weird, according to Andrew Pritchett. She appeared to have lost her balance and nearly fell out of her nest. She had to spread her wings to keep her up, Pritchett said.

Pritchett called the moderators on the web site and sent e-mails out to the Fish & Wildlife Commission to alert them on Harriet’s condition.

There were many theories to what happened. From vertigo to lead poisoning to something she ate, Pritchett said.

Thankfully, Harriet rallied. She regained her balance and took a bath Wednesday and has been vigilant in caring for her eaglets. She continues to recuperate and care for the eggs/young while Ozzie went to hunt.

“Who knows what it could have been. We won’t know for sure. All we know is she’s getting better. Hopefully she’ll get even better for when the eggs hatch,” Pritchett said.

Michelle Van Deventer, eagle expert for the FWC, saw Harriet’s conditions and was also concerned, but said there wasn’t much they could do until they fell to the ground.

“We were on the same page, but there isn’t much you can do with an eagle that’s still flight capable. If she started to progress for the worse and got grounded, there was a capable eagle rescue person who can respond,” Van Deventer said. “These are apex predators and there are things that can happen.”

With these birds showing an ability to hide ailments, a sure sign of improvement, Van Deventer said, was the lack of head-drooping, a sign of poisoning.

Harriet’s condition over, the attention turned to the eggs. A pip from E5 could be seen shortly after midnight on Friday, with the eaglet finally breaking through the shell at 1 p.m. on Friday.

On Saturday, at 11:28 a.m., E6 hatched pretty much right on schedule.

As many as 2,500 viewers watched as the moment came. At the site on Bayshore Road, a group of 10 people lined up at the Church of the Nazerene to take pictures and hold vigil.

“It’s an amazing journey and I’m grateful I get to follow them on the camera and to come see them live,” said Dona Broock, who lives three miles from the nest site. “I moved here from Oregon and never got to see eagles because they’re buried so far in the wilderness.”

Broock said she believed Harriett had an issue with her right foot or leg.

Pritchett said viewership also bumped up during Harriet’s illness.

“Whenever word gets around that things aren’t going well, people will check in. Viewership was up when she was sick,” Pritchett said. “There’s more viewership at the nest site.”

The site has had nearly 1.7 million views so far this season.