Sibling rivalry caught on eagle cam surprises viewers

Bald Eagle, Yellowstone National Park Wyoming

If wildlife draws your attention, the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam is sure to be addictive. In its ninth year providing a closeup look at America’s symbolic bird, the eagle cam can surprise viewers sometimes because many people don’t realize sibling rivalry isn’t just a human trait. There’s another surprise too.

The Southwest Florida Eagle Cam is sponsored by a private entity. (Article continues after photo.)

Baby Eaglets SW Florida Eagle cam
Baby Eaglets on January 28, 2021 as shown on SW Florida Eagle Cam sponsored by Dick Pritchett Real Estate. (Snip from live feed video)

My husband and I were watching the latest eaglets the other day and we both marveled at the aggression of one of the babies towards its sibling. It looked like the tough eaglet was going to peck a hole in his sibling’s chest. The parent did position her head between the eaglets at some points as she fed them, but the aggressive eaglet pretty much kept on pecking at his sibling.

The eagle cam is sponsored by Dick Pritchett Real Estate. The Pritchett family also started a foundation in a commitment to enhance conservation and education. When I read a statement on the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam Facebook page, it brought back memories of my work with a state agency division in charge of nongame species protection and management.

The statement put eaglets’ sibling rivalry in context:

“Sibling rivalry varies between nests -depending quite a bit on the amount of food provided. Even when food is abundant, it is not uncommon to see some sibling competition – lessons learned which will help them cope when they are on their own.  In general, the first 20 days is when aggression is seen, but can be longer. As they get older, sibling rivalry lessens. There are no “bullies”, just eaglets trying to survive.”

That wasn’t what brought memories to mind for me, though. This did:

“For all those inquiring or worrying about E8, see our note from last year on sibling rivalry. Sibling rivalry varies between nests & seasons and depending on food availability and the age between the eaglets.

If you become emotional, we ask you turn off the cams and please do not contact authorities…”

When I did freelance work for the natural resources agency, the division would get definitely emotional calls about hawks in the area. Sometimes a hawk would nab a pigeon from the state capitol grounds where people liked to feed the pigeons. The callers seemed to believe there was something the agency could do to stop the hawks from doing this. People didn’t realize if the hawks didn’t cull the pigeon population, it would ultimately get totally out of control.

I recall the time a black racer nabbed a lizard in our neighborhood. My younger daughter who is definitely an animal lover felt bad she couldn’t rescue the lizard.

It’s captivating to watch the eagle parents take care of the babies. Our national bird made a comeback after numbers declined in the 1940s. Many experts attributed the decline to various causes—human predation, loss of habitat, and eggshell thinning due to DDT.

Eagles and raptors in general are fascinating birds. In our area here in Northeast Florida, we see different types of raptors and we see them more now because development in this area is on steroids. I would love to see a land trust established in the historic corridor, or what’s left of it, here in Mandarin, but the land is worth a lot of money and you’d have to have landowners on board in some way to achieve that. Many of the forest fragments that existed when we moved here are gone now, and wildlife is routinely displaced as land is clearcut.

Hat tip to Dick Pritchett Real Estate in North Fort Myers, Florida, and to his family for establishing the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam Foundation. If you visit the business page for Pritchett, you can view the eagle parents and babies on different cameras. You can also view the YouTube page. The Southwest Florida Eagle Cam is in its ninth season. Private donations help advance the foundation’s goals.

I’ve grown very fond of watching these eagles and their babies, and some days when the news just goes completely off the skids, instead of reading headlines and articles, I go watch the baby eaglets. It is excellent therapy for the creative mind.

To learn more about eagles, visit the US Fish and Wildlife Services web page.

~~Featured photo: Bald Eagle in Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, USA). Photo credit: Gates Frontiers Fund Wyoming Collection within the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

(Kay B. Day/January 28, 2021)

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