Tom Stienstra
San Francisco Chronicle
Sunday, March 15, 2009

Anybody with a computer and an Internet connection has the rare chance to see a bald eagle chick hatch this week, then grow to adult size in the next three months.

At a nest along the Sacramento River in Redding, a mated pair of bald eagles produced three eggs in February. Two eaglets are expected to hatch by this weekend, and the third is due early this week.

An “eagle-cam” set up by CalTrans is capturing the spectacle. For the nest-side glimpse of nature, go to turtlebay.org/caltranseaglecam.php. The nest is located along Highway 44 near the Sacramento River, so close to each that you can see traffic passing at the top of the picture, with the river to the left.

The eggs were laid on Feb. 6, 9 and 13. The incubation period for bald eagles typically ranges 32 to 35 days, which means the egg laid Feb. 13 would hatch in the coming week.

New-born bald eagles are a motley lot, small, brown and fuzzy, with no feathers. But their appearance changes quickly and they will reach full size within three months. Their first feathers are expected the week of April 12. The chicks should first open their wings in the last few days of April. By mid-May, the juvenile eagles will start hopping and elevating a few feet in test flights. Soon after that, the adults will then lure them off for the real thing, first flight.

In the meantime, both parents will be busy, rotating between guarding the nest from ospreys and golden eagles, and fetching food.

All this will be shown on the eagle-cam. Some of the brutal realities of the wild will likely be captured as well. In an eagle nest, it’s common for the largest eaglet to dominate and sometimes abuse, even kill, the smallest of the three chicks, to the complete indifference of the parents. It is nature’s way for a pair of eagles to produce two offspring, where the third is insurance in case one of the others dies.

In addition, once the young eagles are ready to leave the nest, they won’t be allowed to establish their homes in the parental range. This guarantees the natural expansion of the population. Eagles do not begin to gain the classic white head and tail feathers for three or four years.

This is the URL they give: http://www.turtlebay.org/caltranseaglecam.php

You have to have a DSL or cable Internet connection for the videocam to work for you plus Quicktime . A circular blue icon comes up, and if clicking on that doesn’t start the videocam, you have to follow their instructions to have Quicktime player installed, for Windows or Mac. It is only visible in daylight hours. You have to refresh your browser every 20 minutes if you want to keep watching longer. The eagle’s nest appears to be several feet in diameter, in a tree, overlooking the road far below, Route 44.

The website says if you have questions about the videocam to contact:

Denise Yergenson, Public Information Officer, Caltrans District 2
(530) 225-3260

http://www.turtlebay.org/caltranseaglecam.php

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