Monday, June 11, 2012
Vancouver Island eagles struggle with parenthood
Just ask Hank and Shaya, who are now spending time apart, leaving Hank struggling with the role of single dad. The two bald eagles lived happily together for two years at The Raptors, a raptor education centre in North Cowichan.
Then came two eggs and, to the delight of staff, two chicks hatched about one month ago.
They believe these are the first bald eagle babies hatched in captivity in B.C.
But Shaya was not so thrilled with motherhood.
“The pressures and frustrations of dealing with their new charges spilled over into squabbles that quickly escalated,” Radcliffe said.
Shaya, who is 30 per cent bigger than her mate, started beating up on him. Hank, who suffered some injuries, had to be pulled out of the enclosure.
And she had spent so much time beating him up, she was not sitting on her chicks. After staff consulted with specialists around the world, the two chicks were removed from the aviary and put in a brooder. A week later, an attempt was made to appeal to Shaya’s maternal instinct and the larger chick was placed on the nest ledge, but when the chick started to get cold, with Shaya steadfastly ignoring it, the baby had to be returned to the brooder.
Staff hand-reared the chicks for the next couple of weeks and then set up a new living arrangement with Dad.
Dad Hank feeds alongside the chicks and shows his progeny all his cool bald eagle moves. but he’s not feeding them, so they feed them through a hatch, and he’s learning how to be a parent,”
Fish, quail and rabbit form the basic diet.
Both parents were bred in captivity, but as birds at the centre have extensive freedom, it is unlikely that has anything to do with the family problems. It likely happens in the wild as well.
The center does not believe Shaya is a bad mother and hopes things will work out differently next time. She did feed them for a couple of days!
The center is hoping that, once the chicks fledge, they eventually will be able to join the centre’s flying team.
“The birds fly free and then come home,” she said. “It inspires people to learn more about these birds.”
Birds from the center also are used for bird control in areas such as vineyards and airports.
“Some of our birds are in Winnipeg, chasing gulls off the landfill. Our birds have jobs,” Radcliffe said.
Although the chicks are doing well and appear robust, they will not be named until they fledge as there is a high mortality rate among young raptors.