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Harriet, M15 brings two eaglets into world

By Staff | Jan 29, 2016

With all the goings-on at the nest this year, some wondered if there would ever be new eaglets coming into the world.

But good things come for those who wait. Harriet and M15 finally put together a family, with two eaglets being hatched this week.

E7 came into the world just after sunrise, at 7:23 a.m., on Tuesday, with its sibling not too far behind. E8 finally hatched Wednesday around 10:39 p.m.

Thousands watched on the Pritchett Eagle Cam as the moment unfolded more than 36 hours after evidence of a pip emerged from E8’s shell.

This is the first offspring for Harriet and Male 2015 (M15). Bald eagles mate for life, but when one dies, the survivor will not hesitate to accept a new mate.

That’s what happened when Ozzie, Harriet’s original mate, was found injured March 17, 2015, by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials and taken to the Clinic for Rehabilitation of Wildlife in Sanibel to recover from a broken clavicle and left coracid bone.

After more than three months of care, Ozzie was released back into the wild near the nest. On Sept. 27, 2015; after reportedly fighting with M15, who by then had taken up with Harriet. Ozzie was found injured and again admitted back into CROW’s care and died two days later.

Harriet had usually laid her eggs around Thanksgiving, but with M15, she didn’t lay her first egg until late afternoon on Dec. 19, with the second coming three days later.

Harriet and M15 will now spend the next three months watching over their young.

The eaglets will still receive warmth from the adults, as they won’t be able to regulate their own body temperature for another two weeks when a new layer of down grows.

Michelle Van Deventer, biological scientist for the Florida Wildlife Commission, said the natal down is replaced by the thermal down at that point and the parents don’t have to sit on them so much. Until then, the eagles do something interesting.

“They pluck a brood patch on their lower abdomen when they lay eggs. They’ll put that against the young and gingerly keep them regulated,” Van Deventer said. “There’s more direct heat and can tell if they’re maintaining that temperature.”

The eaglets will also fight over food when the adults feed them. It is common for the slightly older sibling to bully the smaller younger one for the lion’s share of the feedings.

On rare occasions, especially when the oldest sib is female and the youngest is male, the older sib will kill the younger, with the parents doing nothing to stop it.

The eaglets will grow quickly over the first 30 days, gaining about half their full body weight. They begin to build strength and stability and their coordination and balance improves. They will be able to stand on their feet and take small steps.

After another 30 days, they will develop their juvenile feathers and start to use their wing muscles by jumping and flapping around in the nest.

Finally, after almost three months, the eaglets will be able fly and hunt by observing their parents and then fledge.

People will be able to watch these milestones on the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam. More than 6,000 viewers watched as E7 was born Tuesday morning, with even more watching Wednesday evening.

One of them was Ginnie Pritchett, who saw two babies sleeping in the nest. She said since Saturday, when the hatch watch began, there have been a half-million people tuning in to watch, and Tuesday saw a record viewership, with 120,000.

“We were pretty excited about that and we keep saying ‘wow’ because we started this project four years ago and never expected this to happen. Each day is a blessing,” Pritchett said. “We expect a lot of people to see the bobbleheads grow and flourish and fly the nest in late spring.”

Since its inception in 2012, the SWFEC has received more than 45 million views from more than 190 countries worldwide.

This year has brought a third camera, a new view directly above the nest which can zoom in on the happenings, and even an app.

“It’s providing a new experience for the viewers. We’re even focusing more on schools because it’s the reason we started this,” Pritchett said. “We have six classes scheduled to ask questions and teachers are using this is a teaching tool in their curriculum.”