Eagle cam: First egg of 2016 in Hanover-area nest

Sean Philip Cotter

Your eyes aren't lyin' — Hanover-area eagles soon will have a new kid in town.

The first egg of 2016 appeared Thursday.

On Thursday, the female half of York County's arguably most famous feathered couple laid the first of likely two eggs for the year.

Another egg probably will show up this weekend, about three days after the first, according to Wendy Looker, environmental education specialist for Codorus State Park, close to the nest in Heidelberg Township.

The state park's visitor's center — with a nice screen to watch the eagle cam — will be open from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. both weekend days, and park workers will be there to inform the public about the eagles, she said.

The eagles will take turns sitting on the eggs and keeping them warm for about 35 days, at which point they'll hatch, assuming the eggs are still viable, she said. The full-grown eagles will continue tending to their eaglets for about eight more weeks before the little birds fledge, taking their first flight from the nest. Eventually, the parents won't allow the young ones back in the nest.

PA Bald Eagle Nest Cam - POV View

These are the same eagles who became celebrities on the eagle cam last year, Looker said. She said people like to say eagles mate for life, but that's not necessarily quite true; the eagles are more tied to the area where they nested.

"They’re really loyal to the territory, to the site" of the nest, so they keep coming back to it, she said.

Eagle cam: Basically, as long as the camera is pointing at the nest and functioning around this time of year, you can check them out any time you like, because it's highly unlikely they're going to leave.

Last year, the eagle cam garnered millions of views, as folks from York County and beyond tuned in to watch the adult eagles sit on the eggs, which hatched into fuzzy little eaglets that both eventually successfully fledged. That's not unusual, Looker said, but neither is it out of the ordinary that at least one eaglet doesn't make it to that point.

Because they're probably going to be born a few days apart, the elder eaglet likely will be larger and therefore will have an advantage in getting the food its parents bring it. After all, eagles don't really directly feed their kids; they just bring the food to the nest and leave it there for them, Looker said.

Which is one reason why she doesn't like the fairly dramatic term "sibilicide" — in this case one eaglet killing its brother or sister — as she says it's not usually entirely accurate.

"More often than not raptors won’t actually kill each other," she said.

It's more the case that in the long run, one — probably the older, larger sibling — might out-compete its brother or sister for food from the parents, leading the other one to eventually die.

'Eagle cam' is back and better than ever

"We can't attribute human emotions and motives to their behavior," Looker said.

This "asynchronous hatching" benefits the species in general, as it's more beneficial for eaglekind for one healthy eaglet to make it than two sickly ones, Looker said.

Attached: Last year, the eagle cam became popular — spawning a Facebook fan page and even a parody Twitter account — which was great, she said. People became very attached to the eagles as they watched the adults nest and lay the eggs, and then the cute little eaglets hatch and grow.

Looker was glad to see that, but she wants to make sure everyone keeps in mind that this is nature — people shouldn't be calling up and asking the authorities to interfere with the eagles just because they think one of the eaglets isn't doing well, for example.

"These things go on all the time, but you don’t always have the front seat we’re privy to," she said. "People have to be accepting of that."

One interesting addition to the eagle-cam setup this year is a night-vision camera feed, so you can still get your eagle-watching in even after the sun goes down.

People certainly can to come to the park and look at the eagles, but do it safely, and follow the rules. The nest is located on private property, and it's state law that you have to stay 1,000 feet back. Anybody who takes it to the limit and gets too close can be fined.

— Reach Sean Cotter atscotter@yorkdispatch.com.