Wildlife lovers from Minnesota and afar have been watching an eagle family materialize before their eyes on the popular EagleCam this week. A much-anticipated third egg arrived Friday night on the heels of egg No. 2 Tuesday.
"As of (Friday) night at about 6 p.m. our eagle pair now has laid three eggs," said Erica Hoaglund, a specialist with the Nongame Wildlife Program of the state Department of Natural Resources. The program oversees the eagles and the streaming feed from the camera perched above the birds' nest.
"We have come to expect three from this pair and they haven't let us down this year!" Hoaglund added in an email.
The eagle parents will incubate the eggs for 35 days, meaning the countdown is on to the first hatchling. That could come by the first weekend in March.
The eagle parents take turns atop the eggs, sitting on a deep pocket called a bole, Hoaglund said.
"It's quite deep this year, so we haven't been getting too many peeks at the eggs. The adults have been diligently incubating and, with all this devoted attention (from the birds) and the deep bole, the eggs should be well-protected from the chilly temps," she said.
The adults switch off incubating duties several times a day.
The female eagle laid her first egg last Saturday.
Lori Naumann, information officer for the Nongame Wildlife Program of the Department of Natural Resources, predicted the second egg's arrival Tuesday "based on the history of these birds."
Naumann said specialists know that the female raptor is the same bird from last year because she is banded. She was once a patient at the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota.
“Thrilled to see the first egg after watching all signs of Ma and Pa hovering over the nest,” wrote one Facebook follower on the Nongame Wildlife Program’s page. It’s there that the first egg’s arrival was announced Saturday afternoon.
Those same followers voiced some concern Monday when both eagle parents left the nest for more than an hour, leaving the egg exposed to the elements. Naumann said the egg is likely OK, noting the relatively mild temperatures and parents' diligence. "A lot of times they are in search of food. Both parents have been really good about incubating, and bringing food to the nest."
Keepers of the EagleCam, the specialists in the Nongame Wildlife Program provide regular updates online. Included are timelines and details of the hatchlings from previous years.
Three eggs were laid as of Jan. 31 last year. In 2015, the first egg was laid Jan. 19. The parents protect and incubate their eggs for about 35 days.
“We have observed the incubating adults roll their eggs often. This rolling behavior is one of the things the adult eagles need to do to keep the chicks inside alive,” read a NonGame Wildlife Program post on the DNR's EagleCam homepage. Switch-offs between the parents happen quickly.
Last year's three chicks all grew into healthy eaglets and fledged in the spring.
The DNR said in a news release about the eagles Thursday that near 500,000 people tuned in to the EagleCam last year.
"This pair of eagles, which has consistently laid their eggs in the dead of winter, really embodies Minnesotans' cold-hardiness," Hoaglund said. "It is a good reminder to us to get outdoors and enjoy the weather, and do what we can to help our feathered friends and other animals."