At least one hatchling thought to be in Harmar eagles' nest

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More bald eagle news from “Pittsbird” — the eagles nesting on a steep bluff above the Allegheny River in Harmar appear to have hatched at least one eaglet.

The Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania today confirmed the hatching based on behaviors of the adults observed through optics from a point near the Hulton Bridge.

There is no camera surveilling the Harmar nest, no way to look inside.

Jim Bonner, executive director of the Audubon chapter, said one or more eggs are believed to have hatched April 8.

“During the incubation period, the male and female would switch places on the nest,” he said. “Six times in the last couple of days I’ve observed the male bringing food to the nest, interacting briefly with the female, and leaving. Now, she stays on the nest. Before, we saw her head moving in a way that suggested she was rolling an egg or eggs. Now she’s up for four to seven minutes at a time, and we see her pulling at stuff as if it’s food and moving her head in what appear to be feeding motions.”

At one point something that appeared to be food in the female’s beak was gone when she raised her head, suggesting the feeding of an eaglet. She’s also been observed concentrating her attention on something at the bottom of the nest. The adults’ new behaviors started about 36 days after previous activities, suggested an egg had been laid and incubation had begun.

“These are all behaviors consistent with the hatching of one more eggs,” said Mr. Bonner.

This would be the Harmar couple’s first hatching. In 2013, after stealing the nest from red-tailed hawks, the eagles were seen engaging in mating activities, but they abandoned the nest. Mr. Bonner said one of the eagles seemed young, perhaps too young to successfully mate.

“We should know in three or four weeks whether there is more than one eaglet,” he said. “They’ll be big enough that we’ll see their heads above the nest.”

With construction on the Hulton Bridge and generally heavy traffic on Route 28 and Freeport Road, there is no safe place for the public to observe the Harmar site. The Audubon Society has special permission to watch from a spot just downstream from the bridge.

Across town at Hays, the male eagle has had no problem providing food from the Monongahela River and the surrounding area. The three eaglets that hatched March 28 through April 1 have grown into fuzzy gray balls that alternately eat and sleep, progressing at a rate predicted by ornithologists.

It’s more difficult to monitor Allegheny County’s third bald eagle nest on private property in Crescent. The couple fledged multiple eaglets in 2013 and 2012. Mr. Bonner said they are believed to be in incubation mode.


John Hayes: 412-263-1991, jhayes@post-gazette.com.

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