Minnesota eagle cam update

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources header

Happy Groundhog Day!

Six more weeks . . .

Egg-citing news
Hello eagle fans!

What an egg-citing week it’s been! On Saturday, Jan. 28, at 5 p.m. central time, our regal pair laid their first egg of 2017! Well, it was obviously the female, but both parents take part in the "nestorations" (preparing the nest for eggs), incubating, hunting for and feeding the chicks, so we’ll give them both credit for being such good parents.

Then, on Tuesday afternoon, the second egg appeared. The bole (which is what the deeper part of the nest is called), is somewhat deeper this year, so glimpses of the eggs have been few. The male has been doing his part, bringing in new grasses to soften the nest bole, and delivering a variety of food. So far, we've seen mostly birds being eaten. The eagles waste no time in de-feathering and devouring their meals, particularly the female, who is one-third larger than the male. It’s no surprise she’s hungry. She’s had to expend a lot of physiological energy preparing for, producing and laying these eggs. The bones in her body have grown less dense to provide some of the calcium needed to "construct" the eggs. When she is about to lay an egg, you can see her breathing heavily and her eyes look as though she’s fallen into a trance. And she’s likely not done, as this pair has consistently produced three eggs each year we’ve been watching. Stay tuned!

Our eagles also have consistently laid their eggs early in the year, when temperatures can take a dive, as they’ve done recently. In the colder weather, the parents hunker down, maintaining the eggs at about 99 degrees Fahrenheit by keeping their brood-patch in direct contact with the eggs. The brood patch is a bald spot on some bird's abdomens that both parents develop during mating season. The bare skin is their body temperature, which is about 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The parents also roll the eggs around with their beaks to assist in the development process and to make sure all eggs receive equal heat.

Happy Groundhog Day!
Well the news, is in, and, if you don’t like cold and snow, it’s not good. Punxsutawney Phil Sowerby, Pennsylvania’s famous prognosticating groundhog, saw his shadow this morning, meaning we’re in for another six weeks of winter. Groundhogs are also known as woodchucks, and some people call them whistle-pigs for their habit of emitting a high-pitched whistle when alarmed. Or, if you’re a biologist, you may refer to them as Marmota monax, which is the species’ scientific name.

Phil isn’t the only groundhog consulted for weather outlooks. Some lesser known forecasters include General Beauregard Lee (Lilburn, Georgia), Sir Walter Walley (Raleigh, North Carolina), Chattanooga Chuck (Chattanooga, Tennessee), and Malverne Mel (Malverne, New York).
Minnesota has groundhogs, too. This time of year, they’re not likely to be seeing any shadows, though, as they’ve burrowed below the frost-line.

While our beloved eagles endure accumulating snow, frigid temperatures and strong winds, groundhogs are warm and protected in their underground winter retreats or “hibernacula.” Groundhogs are true hibernators, meaning their body temperature, heart and metabolic rates, and breathing slow way down during the winter months. These physiological changes allow them to remain in their hibernacula all winter without requiring food. You can expect to see groundhogs again in early spring after they emerge from hibernation.

How do you handle the winter? Are you active like eagles, or are you a hibernator like the groundhog? Everyone has their own way of coping with the cold, but at least we can be sure that there’s only six weeks left of it. Phil said so!

Like what you read here? Want to learn more? Your MN-DNR Nongame Wildlife Program and the educational products it provides (including the popular EagleCam), are made possible by donations from the public. Please give today.