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Harriet hatches first eaglet in pending brood of two

By Staff | Dec 19, 2019

Harriet and M15 are parents again.

Southwest Florida’s most famous eagle pair saw the first of their two eaglets, E14, make its first appearance Thursday around noontime, with the second chick, E15, expected sometime Saturday.

A pip was confirmed on Wednesday at 8:35 a.m.. The official hatch is expected to come within 24 and 48 hours of the first pip, or breakthrough in the shell, although at almost 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, a chirp was possibly heard.

At 12:03 p.m. on Thursday, E14 was spotted for the first time. Harriet had the eggs and possible eaglet all snuggled warmly underneath her on the chilly day, since eaglets are unable to regulate their own temperature the first few weeks of life.

Nearly 3,500 watched the event on the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam, which was experiencing difficulties with buffering caused, in part, by the increased traffic for the site that offers real-time video of the nest on the Pritchett Real Estate property off Bayshore Road in North Fort Myers.

Ginnie McSpadden, who runs the cam, said the second egg came a day later than usual, so the hope is that the eagles found a way to incubate the eggs so the chicks are born as close to each other as possible.

“The further away they are between hatchings, the more chance for severe sibling rivalry, which is tough to watch because the older bird can get pretty aggressive,” McSpadden said. “We hope it will hatch sooner than later.”

That very thing happened several years ago when E7, a female, was very aggressive to E8, a male, four years ago. It is rare, but not uncommon for the older eaglet to kill the younger one, since the parent eagles don’t stop the fratricide.

Harriett laid her first egg at 4:57 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, with the second one not coming until Saturday, Nov. 16, at 5:58 p.m. The eggs are incubated for about 35 days before hatching.

During that time, the parents taken turns incubating the eggs to maintain the necessary 105-degrees temperature the embryos need for proper development.

When hatching nears, the parents feel movement and the chick scratches the inside the surface of the egg (scoring the inside) to break out. During the last two to three days before hatching, the parents can hear and feel activity inside the egg and will watch the egg closely. Once the hatchling has begun to breathe, it will make soft calls that the adults can hear.

Once hatched, the eaglets grow very quickly, with them taking flight within nine and 12 weeks, McSpadden said.

“We will see such a big transformation in their appearance, size and movements. Beside the birth, these are the most exciting days,” McSpadden said.

The Southwest Florida Eagle Cam may be viewed at dickpritchettrealestate.com/eagle-feed.html