They’ve been called the country’s most famous couple—a bald eagle pair whose majestic romance has captivated a nation through a well-publicized webcam. In February, Smithsonian.com reported that “Mr. President” and “The First Lady” laid a pair of eggs (their first since 2014) in their nest at the U.S. National Arboretum. Now, things just got real for the new parents with one eaglet fully hatched and the other just starting to pip.
Their first baby in years, the unceremoniously named DC4, emerged from its shell yesterday morning, its keepers report. Now DC5, its as-yet-unhatched sibling, is getting ready to join the party by pipping its shell.
Pipping happens when the baby bird inside the egg manages to break through the shell with its beak. The first hole is known as a “pip”—and not only is it one of the more adorable scientific terms, but it indicates that hatching is going to happen soon. The above video of DC5 pipping was taken this morning.
It takes some considerable might—and specially evolved muscles—to bust through a hard shell as a baby bird. As biologists William S. Brooks and Susan E. Garrett explain, birds have a special set of muscles that becomes engorged with lymph fluid a few days before they hatch. When the big day comes, the birds use their superpowers to bust through the shell. (Later, the muscle settles down and helps raise their head.)
So far, DC5 seems to be working hard to emerge. In the meantime, DC4 is enjoying some mom-and-me time and even babysitting the egg for short periods of time while its parents take a much-deserved break.
It’s unclear when the big event will happen—but it’s certain to be compelling. And if you tune in online, you’re sure to have company. Earlier this year, American Eagle Foundation told Smithsonian that more than 20 million people have tuned in to the webcam since it launched last year.
And the action won’t stop when DC5 is born: The AEF and the USDA, which co-runs the webcam, warns viewers that “This is a wild eagle nest and anything can happen. While we hope that all eaglets hatched in this nest will grow up healthy and successfully fledge each season, things like sibling rivalry, predators, and natural disaster can affect this eagle family and may be difficult to watch.”
No matter what happens, it’s sure to be a wild ride.