The big day came a few days ago for a pair of bald eagles nesting near the Platt River Fish Hatchery with the hatching of two chicks and you can take it all in on the Carbon TV Eagle Cam.
Located just south west of Traverse City, the nest sits 100 feet up in a tree along the Platt River. Through a joint effort between the web service Carbon TV and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the eagle cam is watching over the pair 24 hours a day.
With the hatching of the two eggs, it is time for the parents to begin raising and feeding the chicks. When bald eagle chicks hatch they are four to five inches in size and weight only a few ounces. Over the next nine weeks the chicks will remain in the nest, continuing to grow and getting ready for their first flight. During this time, both parents will to feed the chicks, mostly fish caught by them at nearby lakes and streams. It is also not uncommon for bald eagles to steal fish from other birds, such as the osprey, by harassing them in flight forcing them to drop the fish. The eagles then catch the fish in mid-air and take it for themselves.
During the time when the chicks are in the nest, both the male and female eagle care for them, changing places at the nest while the other bird feeds and more or less, “stretches its wings”. Even after the chicks have reached full size and leave the nest, the parents are not off the hook.
Though the now juvenile birds will fledge, they return to the nest tree often and will remain nearby for the next four to five months. During this time, the parents will continue to help feed the birds and the immature bald eagles will in fact harass the parents for food. Once the juveniles become accomplished at flying, they will often times try to take food from the adults while in flight. This behavior helps to hone the hunting and flying skills of the young birds making them ready to be on their own.
Populations of bald eagles have continued to recover of the past 30 plus years since the insecticide DDT was banned for use in the United States in 1972. With birds of prey being at the top of the food chain in the environment they inhabit, they were exposed to DDT when eating prey that had consumed other organisms tainted by the compound.
This high level of DDT in the birds then caused malformation of chicks and a thinning of the shells of the birds eggs. Often times the egg shells were so thin that the weight of the parent bird crushed them during incubation.
As time goes by at the upper Michigan nest, the entire event can be taken in at the Carbon TV Eagle Cam website. The camera functions 24 hours a day, with an illumination source used at night that does not disturb the birds.
So take a bit of time to get outside on your computer and watch these wonderful birds as they raise the next generation of bald eagles, the symbol of our nation .
For more information on bald eagles and just about any other bird on earth visit the Cornel University site, All About Birds.
Information on the bald eagle is also available from the MDNR and from the University of Michigan website Animal Diversity Web.
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