November 18, 2016
Codorus State Park: Bald Eagle Does Something Amazing To Protect Eggs From Snow

A bald eagle in Codorus State Park in Hanover, Pennsylvania, did something amazing to protect its eggs from the harsh snowfall. It sheltered them throughout the storm until only the caring bird's beak could be seen.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission posted a live camera at the nest of two bald eagle parents. The couple has two eggs they're protecting.

The camera normally just catches human disturbances, but on Thursday it picked up an example of the bird's dedication.

A snow storm started. But instead of leaving, the bald eagle stayed as the snow piled up. Eventually the nest was completely covered in snow, but the bird held fast.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission posted about the dedicated bird on Facebook. They explained that bald eagles managed to nest in freezing temperatures by eating plenty of food and fluffing their feathers to provide more insulation.

According to Newsday, the eagles will develop what's called a "brood patch," a patch of featherless skin on their abdomens that helps transfer heat to the eggs for extra protection.

Naturalist Jack Hubley told the Lancaster Online, not to worry too much about the bald eagles.

"You'll notice that she's covered with snow. What does that tell you? That tells you that there is not much heat loss from her body."
It may look cold to us, but the eagle's feathers provide amazing insulation. They are layered on the eagle's body like overlapping shingles, and they can control their body temperature by adjusting the feathers according the Hubley.
"They raise and lower their feathers, increasing and lowering their body temperature."
According to PennLive, bird biologist Patti Garber explained that snowfall isn't the eagle's true threat.
"The single biggest threat to bald eagle nests in Pennsylvania is human disturbance."
On February 16, the camera caught two employees from local news WGAL-TV in Codorus State Park disturbing this same nest. The two unidentified bald eagle watchers received a citation for "interference with an active nest" and were fined about $230. Federal regulations say birdwatchers need to keep a distance of 660 feet from an active bald eagle nest, although the commission recommends 1,000 feet.

As for the bald eagle's current problem, freezing temperatures and lots of snow, it's not clear if the eggs were harmed. The latest report from WTOP says the bird's mate returned. The two bald eagles managed to switch places seamlessly, without exposing the eggs, now the snow-covered eagle can finally get to relax a little (see video below) The eggs should hatch in another two to three weeks.

[Image via Pennsylvania Game Commission]