First bald eagle egg hatches at the National Arboretum

Right on time, one of the two eggs in the Bald Eagle nest at D.C.’s National Arboretum began the hatching process.

Dan Rauch, Fisheries and Wildlife Biologist with the District Department of Energy and the Environment, told WTOP that the hatch “is right on schedule,” explaining that incubation lasts from 34 to 36 days.

“Yesterday morning, day 34, you could see a little hole in the egg,” and by Friday morning, Rauch said, “the chick is really going to town trying to emerge.”

Rauch explained that eggs usually hatch within days of each other, and that way, the eaglets are roughly the same size. If there’s a large gap between the time the eggs hatch, that can lead to sibling rivalry, as the smaller eagle can struggle to compete for food brought to the nest.

At the National Arboretum, that typically hasn’t been the case. Still, Rauch says if people see some competition between young eagles on the American Eagle Foundation and the Friends of the National Arboretum camera at the nest, “don’t be alarmed, it’s kind of the natural order.”

At first, the hatchlings break out of the egg and appear to be a bit of a wet mess. As they dry out, they transform into a little ball of fluff. At four to five weeks, says Rauch, “the feet will be really large, the beak will be really large and they’ll look really wobbly because those are the first parts to really grow.”

The eagles at the National Arboretum are known as Mr. President and Lotus, and Rauch says the two have been attentive to the eggs throughout the incubation period. Now, their duties will shift to feeding, and Bald Eagles share the job of bringing meals to the nest.

“Bald eagles are omnivores,” but they’re also scavengers, says Rauch. “You could see everything from fish to different birds to mammals,” Rauch said. “We’ve seen them bring groundhogs to this nest,” but Rauch says fish is the main item on the menu.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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