Like any expectant parents, bald eagles “Independence” and “Franklin” are anxiously waiting for their three little chicks to hatch sometime this week, and it can all be viewed live 24/7 from streaming web cameras placed at the nest by the American Eagle Foundation (AEF).
“In the near future, we’ll be open to suggestions from our viewers regarding possible names for the chicks that will hopefully soon hatch and eventually be released into the wild when they reach full-size at 13-weeks. One or more of the young will be released in honor of fallen U.S. soldiers,” said Al Cecere, president and founder of the AEF
Independence and Franklin are in their 11th year as a captive breeding couple at the Eagle Mountain Sanctuary at the Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
The pair bonded in 2002 and has already produced 27 eggs and 24 eaglets – most of which have been released into the wilds of East Tennessee.
This parent pair can’t be released back into the wild because they have permanent disabilities from injuries suffered from gunshot wounds when they lived in Alaska. Since being relocated to Tennessee, the pair has lived inside the large netted avian natural sanctuary.
When their eaglets hatch, they will be fed several times a day and often at night. As a practice, food is placed inside the aviary at the bottom of the hill from the nest twice a day – morning and evening – by the AEF staff.
“The amount of food provided daily is more than enough for the babies to be fed numerous times. In fact, there are usually leftovers at the end of each day,” said the foundation.
Bob Hatch, a contributing writer for the AEF’s Eagle Blog and a retiree of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, said:
When the eaglets reach 6 to 8 weeks of age, they will be placed in AEF’s Douglas Lake hack tower. The 25-foot high hack tower has four hack cages. Each cage is 8x8x8-feet and can accommodate up to 3 eaglets at a time, or a total of 12 in all four hack cages.
The eagles will be released at approximately 13 weeks age, when they will be first capable of flight. They will already have a full adult size, with a wing span of 6.5 to 7.5 feet. The principle behind hacking is that Bald Eagles tend to return to nest in the region of their first flight.
Eaglets from off-Park aviaries are transferred to the hack tower at approximately 8 weeks of age. Eaglets from AEF’s on-Park (Dollywood) aviaries are transferred to the hack tower between 5 and 6 weeks age. After that age, the eaglets would be able to see Dollywood patrons over the tops of their nests and become too accustomed to being around people.
Eagle parent pair “Ms. Jefferson” and “Issaih” had one egg that hatched on April 11, 2012. The eaglet will be moved to the Douglas Lake hack tower at 5 1/2 weeks old (on May 20, 2012), and released at 13 weeks old on July 12, 2012.
After hatching, the eaglets from Independence and Franklin are also expected to be transferred from Dollywood to the hack cage at about 5 1/2 weeks old on about June 9, 2012, and released about July 13, 2012.
The AEF cares daily for a collection of about 80 birds of prey, including about 40 bald eagles and five golden eagles – all of which can longer survive in the wild because of either human imprinting (bonding to people) or permanent disabilities.
The foundation’s role is to rehabilitate injured or orphaned birds so they can potentially return to the wild, as well as to educate the public about the birds’ for continuing protection and recovery efforts.
The AEF is a non-profit public charity, whose programs are sustained by individuals and corporations. The foundation receives no government funding.
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