Birds in the News

Bald Eagle Parents Get Buried By Snow While Incubating Eggs

Rain, shine, or snow, one Bald Eagle pair in southern Pennsylvania refused to abandon their eggs.

In early March, thousands awaited news of the fate of a single nest. Logging into live stream pointed at an active Bald Eagle nest at Codorus State Park in southern Pennsylvania, viewers awaited news of the fates of two adult eagles incubating eggs after a wintry squall had dumped up a half-foot of snow on the park the night before; it was enough to cover up the mother eagle right up to her neck. Onlookers bit their nails: Would the parent eagles freeze? Was it even possible for them to swap places? Would the eggs survive?

Morning came, and parent eagles and their eggs were just fine.

“You could put an eagle in a chest freezer and open it the next morning and the eagle would be standing there looking at you,” naturalist Jack Hubley told Lancaster Online. (Ed. note: Throwing a raptor in the refrigerator is generally not a great idea.) Eagles, and many other types of birds, are well-suited for even the snowiest of winters; their feathers are fantastically insulating, and they can lift and lower their feathers to regulate heat. Even better, they have a single patch on their bellies that aren’t covered in feathers, to enable easier transferring of heat from the mother eagle to the eggs.

This month's heroic parenting notwithstanding, Bald Eagles have made a pretty amazing comeback across the Keystone State; in 1983, there were only three nests in the entire state, all clustered in the rural northwestern corner. By 2013, the Pennslyvania Game Commission counted 252 nests statewide.

Update: The chicks have successfully hatched! Watch them on the live stream

Photo: portal.state.pa.us