Veterinarians are assessing a young bald eagle that fell 90 feet to the forest floor after its nest partially collapsed over the weekend.
The 10-week-old eaglet, known as DG4, fell from its family perch in northern Virginia around midnight on Monday. The fall was captured on the Dulles Greenway Eagle Cam, which livestreams the avian family 24/7 to fans from around the world.
DG4 is seen slipping as some of the nest gives way, falling partway and futilely flapping its wings to try to return.
The groups that watch over the eagles and maintain the camera, the Dulles Greenway and Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, located and rescued DG4 from the ground later in the day. The eaglet was still being examined Tuesday and was going to be X-rayed and have its blood tested, but has not shown any signs of an injury, said Terry Hoffman, a spokesman for the group running the eagle cam.
Meanwhile fans of the eagles are watching what will happen next with bated breath.
DG4’s parents, Rosa and Martin, arrived to the nest in 2021. The cameras now capturing their daily lives were installed between the 2021 and 2022 nesting seasons.
Last year, the eagle cam captured the birth of Rosa and Martin’s eaglet, named Orion, and his successful departure from the nest a few months later.
In March, the camera captured the hatching of three new babies on separate days. They’re called DG3, DG4 and DG5 but will get official names this week following a naming contest that’s been open to the public. Their temporary monikers stand for Dulles Greenway and the order in which they were hatched (Orion was originally DG1 and an eaglet that failed to hatch last year was DG2).
At any given moment, people all over the world are tuning in to watch the eagle family. As the camera livestreamed the eaglets’ birth in March, for instance, people were watching from Japan, Australia, Brazil, Russia, Spain, Finland and Canada, among others, Hoffman said.
After DG4’s fall from the nest, eagle fans were distraught.
“So sad to hear this!! Praying for DG4!!” wrote one fan. Another said, “Just heartbreaking. Now worried about the stability of the nest for the others!”
3 lucky eaglets
Eaglets grow extremely fast. Within just three months of being born, they are ready to fly and most will leave the nest for good.
Many eagles don’t survive their first few days of life, with danger coming from predators, storms and even each other. Fans of the Dulles Greenway eagle family were worried not all three eaglets would survive infancy, which is why the naming contest is typically held a couple months after hatchings.
Eagle parents typically are extremely watchful and caring as their babies grow, bringing them food and scaring away any predators.
As each day has passed and the eagles continued to grow and thrive, their fan bas has grown steady each month, Hoffman said.
“Wow. Eaglets are getting big so fast!” one user wrote. And another: “Our sweet baby eaglets are turning into big teenagers.”
Those watching out for the eagle family are working to come up with a plan for DG4, Hoffman said.
On the Dulles Greenway website, the group posted that “DG4 will likely not be re-nested as it would be dangerous to the other two eaglets.”
“Human intervention at this stage could cause the eaglets to prematurely leave the nest and be injured,” the post said. “There can be no intervention on the nest condition during the active eaglet season. The nest will be assessed and evaluated during off season.”
Hoffman said the group hopes to release DG4 near the nest for a family reunion. If and when it’s back home, DG4 and the siblings are expected to start taking flight as early as later this week.
Meanwhile the eaglets’ new names are still set to be announced Thursday.
Back when the eaglets hatched, many of their Facebook followers thought the two oldest eaglets, DG3 and DG4, should be called Pi and Patrick. DG3 was born on March 14, also known as Pi day because 3/14 corresponds with the mathematical symbol Pi, or 3.14. DG4 emerged on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. Their youngest sibling was not born on a holiday.
The eagles’ sex can’t be known without a DNA test, Hoffman said. Though its rescuers initially thought DG4 was female because of its large size, the veterinarian caring for it thinks it’s likelier to be male, Hoffman said. Testing will confirm the bird’s sex this week, he said.
Rosa and Martin are named after civil rights leaders Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. Students from Sterling Middle School in Sterling, Virginia, came up with the names and submitted them as part of another contest.
Besides DG4’s absence, all appeared as usual back in the nest on Tuesday, as Martin brought some breakfast to DG3 and DG5 and Rosa watched over the family from a nearby perch.
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