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FAQs: Hays Bald Eagles and mysteries of the eagle cam

Written by Mila Sanina on .

Rise up this mornin', 
Smile with the risin' sun, 
Three little eggs... 
Inside the Hays nest... 
 
There are not yet tweeting or singing sweet songs (or making eagle calls like these), but they've become sort of a local sensation.
 
The Eagle cam, courtesy of PixController, has been one of the most popular features on post-gazette.com this year. Actually, in the past three weeks, it has been in top 10 most visited pages on our website. 
 
The newsroom has decided people just love watching the eagles, especially if it's a live video feed. They cheer on the birds scaring off the raccoon, defending the nest against the hawks and laying the eggs.
 
Eagle fans have been tweeting (on Twitter, not trying to imitate the birds), about the Hays bald eagles and asking questions about the eggs, the nest and the eagle cam. Wildlife professionals from Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania were generous in providing answers to some frequently asked questions.
 
eagle
 
How big is a Bald Eagle? 
Adult-sized eagles, depending on sex and age, will have a wingspan of six to seven feet. Females have larger wingspans than males and weigh approximately 20 percent more. First year birds have larger wingspans than older birds of the same sex because of their longer, “practice” feathers, which make learning to fly easier. Eagles weigh between 8-12 lbs. with a body length of about 32 inches.
 
Why do the mom and dad Bald Eagles keep turning the eggs? 
We're getting closer to the expected hatch date, and mom and dad are still turning the eggs--research has shown that eggs are kept at a mean temperature of 101 degrees. Turning the eggs helps to keep the eggs at the same even temperature. Another thing that happens during incubation--to the parents--both birds develop brood patches (a bare part of the chest which makes contact with the eggs), but the female typically has a more extensive brood patch. Interestingly, some eagles do not develop a brood patch at all.
 
 
What is the role of "dad" eagles in the nest?
The Bald Eagles' roles at the nest are somewhat interchangeable. Papa eagles take turns incubating eggs just like mamas. But because she often spends more time incubating, he will patrol their territory, watching for intruders, and will catch/gather food for both of them. (Hays eagle watchers have seen papa bring a fish to the nest occasionally). But, not to worry, because his busy time is coming! Typically, the male takes a larger role in collecting food for babies, especially for a two week period after the eggs hatch. The female spends more time protecting the babies during the first two weeks, when they are confined to the nest (called the nestling period). Therefore, he brings the lion's share of the food. During this period, mama will tear the food and will feed the babies. Again, typically, at the third and fourth week of the nestling period, things equal out. The female spends a bit more time away from the nest and also brings her share of food to the babies. 
 
Do the Eagles have a great sense of hearing that goes along with their eyesight? With all the noise of Route 837, two railroads, metal, concrete and asphalt recycling yards, how is it that their heads turn when a stick is snapped nearby, or another bird is sing in the area?
Just like people, the Bald Eagles get used to their environment and likely ignore what they hear all the time as background noise. When they hear something out of the ordinary, they do respond. The Hays Bald Eagles have nested near the railroad for two years now, and they are very used to the sounds in the area, so there's no need for concern that the usual sounds around them are bothersome to the eagles.
 
What kind of tree is it in? 
Until the leaves are out in a few months, we don't know for certain what type of tree the Hays Bald Eagles have chosen to build their nest in, since the nest is new this year. The Harmar Bald Eagles' nest, located on a hillside above Route 28, right across from the Hulton Bridge, is in a sycamore tree.
 
Can the camera zoom out? 
The camera can pan, tilt, and zoom. It's operated by PixController and the operators there control what the camera is doing. Sometimes when you watch the feed, you can see that the camera operators are changing the pan or tilt of the camera

 

 

Watch the live cam

(Courtesy of PixController)
This webcam, courtesy of PixController, is a pilot project with the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The camera will be streaming 24/7 as long as temperatures don't approach 0°F. The new player should work on PCs using Chrome and Firefox browsers, and on Apple iOS. If the new player is not working try the old player here: http://www.pixcontroller.com/eagles/index-old.htm

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