For nearly two months, a pair of bald eagles in the San Bernardino National Forest have watched vigilantly over two eggs laid in early January, but officials say it’s looking like the eggs aren’t likely to hatch.
The chicks should have been born around Valentine’s Day, but on Feb. 21 — more than 40 days after the eggs were laid — the U.S. Forest Service delivered the disappointing news.
“It’s hard to say this,” the officials wrote on Facebook in announcing that the odds were against the eggs hatching. The chances “are diminishing each day,” they wrote. “The window of successful hatching is closing.”
Bald eagle Jackie laid her first egg of the year Jan. 8. Three days later, she laid a second.
Video of the nest showed her mate, Shadow, flying back and forth from the nest and collecting food, as Jackie sat vigil. Each day, the birds — and thousands of viewers who tuned in to a livestream of their world — waited in anticipation.
Eggs typically hatch 35 to 38 days after they are laid. There hasn’t been any definitive pip, or crack, in either egg, a sign the eggs may never hatch.
The Forest Service cited a number of reasons why the eggs might not survive, resulting in what’s called a nest failure. They could have suffered incomplete fertilization during the mating process, or the embryos could have died during incubation because of various reasons, including weather, environmental factors or congenital defects. It’s also possible the chicks weren’t able to break out of their shells.
The service expects Jackie and Shadow will continue to sit on the nest for one more week. During that time, they are likely to leave the eggs unattended for lengthening periods of time.
“Unattended, the eggs may be preyed upon by ravens. It is possible that Jackie and Shadow may actually consume the eggs if they break in the nest,” the Forest Service said.
Jackie is not likely to lay more eggs until next year, said Zach Behrens, San Bernardino National Forest’s public information officer. Because eagles have a fidelity to their nests, she and Shadow are expected to return to the same nest next season.
Amid snow flurries this year, the eagles have continued to guard their nest. Despite the recent news, viewers have continued to tune in to watch the eagles. Some shared their disappointment on social media about news of the potential losses, but others are holding out hope the chicks will hatch.
Last year, two chicks were born to Jackie and Shadow, but one died after several bouts of harsh winter weather.