Washington D.C. birdwatchers have waiting with bated breath as a pair of bald eagles nesting at the United States National Arboretum cared for a pair of eggs. Finally, after weeks of watching, the eagles' first chick saw light at 8:20 AM this morning, with its younger sibling expected to break out of its shell in the next few days.
Eagle enthusiasts have been keeping a close eye on the eggs since the first one was laid on February 3, but the real excitement began on Wednesday evening when it started showing signs of hatching. While it took over 24 hours for the hatchling to finally break free, conservationists were elated to see the baby eagle making moves right on time, Dana Hedgpeth reports for the Washington Post.
“This is a very special time in the nest,” Al Cecere, founder and president of the American Eagle Foundation, said in a statement Thursday. “To witness the up-close process of an eaglet breaking through its shell and being fed by its parents for the first time is wonderfully heartwarming.”
The new parents are no strangers to the Arboretum. The bald eagles, nicknamed “Mr. President” and “The First Lady,” first set up shop in its trees back in October 2014. They are the first bald eagles to nest in the area since 1947 and have raised one other eaglet during their time in the capital, Nathaniel Scharping reports for Discover. For now, the first eaglet to hatch will be named “DC2,” while it’s younger sibling gets the title “DC3.” Soon enough, however, the public will get an opportunity to come up with better names.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of opportunities for the public to check in on the baby eagles without having to travel all the way to Washington D.C., thanks to the American Eagle Foundation’s eagle cams (livefeed below), which provide a pair of close-up shots of the eagles in their nest. The cameras run 24 hours a day and are powered by a dedicated solar array. However, as Hedgpeth reports, setting them up was no easy task. Technicians had to be careful not to disturb the nest as they ran half a mile of fiber optic cable from the camera to a control box about 200 feet away from the tree.
While watching a baby eaglet hatch is an exciting thing, there are no guarantees for how the babies will do going forward. Mr. President and the First Lady are wild birds, and any number of things could still happen to the chicks, including being hunted by predators, hurt by a natural disaster, or just plain old sibling rivalry, the American Eagle Foundation warns on its website.
For now, with one eaglet successfully hatched, it’s time to see how it’s little sibling fares.