WASHINGTON — We all love a good story about unconditional love.
Or at least unconditional instinct.
So when the world caught wind of a bald eagle so dedicated to protecting its eggs that snow piled onto its back — covering all but its beak and eyes — it fell in love. The dedicated parent struck a cord as many saw it as an example of good parenting and American perseverance.
The particular eagle was actually one of two. Named Liberty and Freedom, the pair has two eggs. Their nest is in view of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s bald eagle camera.
But as impressed as the Internet was with the stoicism, many were worried. So covered in snow that it looked like it was inside an igloo, there were calls for someone to save the bird — to brush off the snow or give it a blanket.
But Jack Hubley, a naturalist with WGAL-TV, says we needn’t worry. In fact, he likened the bird to a human wearing a goose down coat.
“If you look at the eagle, covered with snow, that tells you that this eagle is terrifically insulated because the snow is not melting. Why is that? There’s no heat escaping.”
These “early nesters” are programmed to stay with their eggs once incubation starts, even when the weather is frigid or blustery. They simply won’t budge. The only exception would be if the eagles felt they were in danger.
“Bald eagles get all the press, but great horned owls very often are on eggs in my neck of the woods here in southeastern Pennsylvania (in) the end of January,” says Hubley.
Liberty and Freedom’s two eggs will incubate for 35 days. Romantically enough, the first egg was laid on Valentine’s Day of this year. The next came a couple days later. If the math comes out right, the eaglets should hatch sometime in the end of March.
“The eggs are enveloped in eagle down. The female in particular, she’s got a brood patch on her chest. She basically wraps that down around those eggs and they’re quite snuggly,” says Hubley.
Even when the temperatures drop to the single digits — the eggs and the eaglets inside will be none the wiser. Additionally, the eagles are a team, each doing his or her part to make sure they are fed and the eggs safe.
To watch the eagles via the live cam, click here. But, as Hubley warns, the moments captured aren’t always sweet.
“Predation is not pretty.”
WTOP’s Neal Augenstein contributed to this report. Follow Neal on Twitter: @AugensteinWTOP.