Hays eaglet OK after taking a tumble from nest

All bald eagles are accounted for following a mishap Saturday at the Hays nest site.

One of the eaglets, while hopping among boughs above the nest, smacked a wing on a branch and tumbled in what appeared to be an unintentional first flight. It was unclear which of the three eaglets had fallen.

On comment boards linked to a wildlife camera focused on the nest in the Pittsburgh community of Hays, fans of the birds shared concerns and theories, and by Sunday morning, the Three Rivers Heritage Trail near the Keystone Iron and Metal scrap yard was teeming with eagle watchers.

Rachel Handel, communications director of the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, said at 9 a.m. Sunday 100 people were on the trail with binoculars and spotting scopes trying to find the lost eaglet.

"At around 11:10 a.m., an eaglet was spotted in a tree near the nest," Ms. Handel said. "At the same time, two eaglets were clearly visible in the nest via nest cam. That means that all three eaglets are accounted for, which is wonderful news."

Bill Powers, president of PixController, which donated the camera and maintains the video link, said the first eaglet to fledge on Friday had returned to the nest several times.

"It comes back and stays for two hours and leaves again," he said. "It hasn't been back at feeding times."

The fallen bird can be heard squawking on the camera's live video feed.

By about 1 p.m. Sunday, neither of the adult eagles had lighted on the lower tree to visit the fallen bird.

This weekend's drama is the latest in a string of events with happy endings that could have turned out much differently. The Hays nest site has been unusually successful by bald eagle standards. Last year, the parents, now about 5½ years old, fledged one eaglet. This year, thousands of eagle camera followers watched as all three of the eggs laid in mid-February proved to be viable, survived animal attacks and hatched. The eaglets have grown to the fledgling stage.

"That doesn't always happen with eagles," Ms. Handel said. "The people who have been watching these birds have been really lucky to have had such a positive experience so far."

View the PixController eagle camera at www.post-gazette.com/baldeagles.

John Hayes: jhayes@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1991. First Published June 22, 2014 12:00 AM

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