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The Country’s Most Famous Bald Eagle Pair Just Laid Another Egg

To the delight of millions of online viewers, the nesting eagles at the U.S. National Arboretum welcomed a new egg to their nest

(Image Courtesy of the American Eagle Foundation)
smithsonian.com

“Mr. President” and “The First Lady” could soon have a new addition to the family.

The duo is a pair of bald eagles nesting at the U.S. National Arboretum who became infamous in the district after the staff trained a livecam on their nest that catches their every move. Now, as the Washington Post’s Martin Weil reports, America’s “First” eagle couple welcomed a new egg into their nest Sunday evening. It is the mated pair’s first of the year and, fittingly, came on Presidents’ Day weekend.

The nesting pair settled down in the Arboretum in 2014—the first bald eagle couple to do so since 1947. And the duo’s popularity soared in February 2016 with the installation of a nest cam operated by the American Eagle Foundation in conjunction with the National Arboretum.

According to the American Eagle Foundation, more than 20 million people (63 million views) from over 100 countries tuned into the live cam in the five months following its installation. As NewsChannel 10 reports, the Arboretum upgraded the webcam this year, and it now includes live sound.

The current egg is the pair’s fourth in the Arboretum nest. In 2015, the eagles successfully raised one eaglet, designated DC1. The following year, "The First Lady" laid eggs on February 10 and 14. "Freedom" and "Liberty" were born about five weeks later in March. Both eaglets successfully fledged, or took their first flight, about 11 weeks after hatching.

Eggs are generally laid about three to five days apart, so if the pair fertilized a second egg this year, it would likely be laid later this week. Hatching typically occurs after 35 to 38 days, and in that time both adult eagles incubate the eggs.

However, as Weil notes, the eagle family has to navigate many hazards before the hatchlings fledge. Sibling rivalry, predators and natural disasters could all threaten the young birds.

D.C. is also home to two other bald eagle nesting pairs under video surveillance: Eagles at the D.C. police academy in Southwest Washington and the Department of Homeland Security are all under close observation.

Bald eagles are an emblem of the United States, but habitat destruction and the widespread use of the insecticide DDT nearly drove the bird to extinction. The eagle’s recovery is one of the crowning achievements of the Endangered Species Act; in fact, the bird has done so well it was removed from the endangered list almost ten years ago. Bald eagles remain protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Act, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Though these birds of prey abandoned the District in the 1940s because of pollution, half a century of restoration has enticed them back to Anacostia River habitats. The nest at the Arboretum, situated high in a tulip poplar in the Azalea Collection, offers easy fishing access in the nearby river. 

About Aaron Sidder

Aaron Sidder is an ecologist and a freelance science writer based in Denver, CO. He is a former AAAS Mass Media Fellow whose work has appeared National Geographic and Eos.

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