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Sibling rivalry — E15 establishes dominance over younger E16

By Staff | Apr 15, 2020

The first full week of the lives of the two eaglets being raised by North Fort Myers’ most famous eagle pair, Harriet and M15, saw what can be expected of eaglet siblings: The first-hatched eaglet began establishing dominance over its younger sibling, especially at feeding time.

E15 has been winning many of the jump balls for food against its noticeably smaller sibling, with the older bonking the younger with its beak to make sure it gets the larger share of the feeding until it goes into its “food coma.”

Thankfully, there has been enough food so that once E15 is full, E16 can fill up as well.

Virginia McSpadden, who helped found the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam where all the interactions in the nest off Bayshore Road may be viewed, said this rivalry is normal.

“The rivalry is normal and both eaglets are doing fine. It’s part of their instinct to fight for food and be the dominant eaglet in the nest,” McSpadden said. “Luckily, they weren’t born too far apart from each other and it’s not as extreme as it’s been with other eaglets.

These feedings and other goings-on have been streamed live on the eagle cam. Sometimes, the feedings have been orderly, but usually there ends up being some kind of scrap, with E15 coming out the winner.

E16 has learned that patience is rewarded, so it usually waits until E15 is done or uses some other kind of finesse before taking its turn at the buffet.

Both eaglets usually survive this early stage, which will continue for another few weeks, until they grow quickly and start to look more like juvenile eagles, start eating themselves and become more independent.

However, in rare circumstances (about 4 percent of the time), there is the chance of siblicide, where the older sibling kills the younger. This only tends to happen if food sources are scarce. This has never been the case for Harriet and M15 (or Harriet’s previous mate, Ozzie). If there is, the parents typically don’t interfere.

McSpadden said other circumstances dictate how much sibling rivalry there is, including the time between hatching (the longer time between hatchings the more bullying), and the sex of the eaglet, as females are larger than males.

“The cuteness comes at the same time as the sibling rivalry. We’ve never had such an extreme case where we worried about the life of an eaglet. It can be tough to watch, as it was with E3 and E4, but it’s all normal,” McSpadden said. “It was weird that there was such a sibling rivalry, but it was E3 that ended up dying of unknown causes.”

One of the more talked about situations this week happened last Monday, when M15 brought home a stuffed toy squirrel. McSpadden said it and other moments can be watched on the eagle cam, which has proven a great diversion and teaching tool.

“We always want to share a good story. The eaglets in the nest has been a great distraction and because of the current situation, we’re doing open classroom chats so the kids can have extra content and a good story for their online classroom,” McSpadden said.

To watch the eaglets online, go to www.swfleaglecam.com.