It’s been an emotional rollercoaster for Mr. President and LOTUS, a newly mated pair of bald eagles within the National Arboretum. While the hatching of their first eaglet, DC8, was initially met with celebration on Friday, the eaglet did not survive its first 24 hours.
In happier news, the nest’s second egg is in the early stages of hatching (fingers crossed!).
The American Eagle Foundation, which operates a live cam of the nest, announced DC8’s death on Saturday morning. “Oftentimes the first clutch of a newly mated pair is not viable,” the foundation wrote in a tweet, later adding that pollution in the Anacostia river could have contributed the eaglet’s death.
“We know the Anocistia [sic] river is polluted and signs warn not to eat the fish,” wrote the foundation. “We will never know why this fragile hatchling perished but pollution to a developing embryo may be contributory.”
However, it’s all speculation at this point, said Dan Rauch, a DC Department of Energy & Environment wildlife biologist. “It could have been many things. It could have just happened that the chick just didn’t have the energy reserves, the ability to push through….Unless we actually had the chick in hand and could do a necropsy on it and look at the contaminants, that would be the only way to tell.”
For now, hopes lie in the nest’s second egg, temporarily named DC9, which had its first “pip,” or crack in the shell, on Sunday. This morning, the live cam caught sight of an “egg tooth,” a temporary projection on the eaglet’s bill that helps it break the shell. And so far, Rauch said “things look on track.”
“I checked in a couple times during the night and you could hear it pretty loud, peeping away,” said Rauch. “And the adults are attentive—they’re right there with it….We’ll see what happens. It seems like it has energy, it seems like it’s in good shape, it still seems vigorous, so hopefully there aren’t any issues.”