One of the first pairs of bald eagles to nest in the Pittsburgh area in more than 200 years is expecting a baby soon.
The female bald eagle laid her first egg of the year Wednesday at 4:45 p.m. at the nest in Hays and will most likely lay another in the next 24 hours, according to National Aviary ornithologist Bob Mulvihill.
He said the female began her 35-day incubation period as soon as the egg was laid, setting the expected date of hatching toward the end of March.
The eagles were observed copulating in January, just weeks before the egg was laid. The pair successfully nested last year, and the eaglet fledged from the nest.
The successful nesting is a “momentous occasion,” Mulvihill said, because the bird species was very close to being driven to extinction due to environmental contamination.
“We had eagles across the continent that were not successfully nesting year after year, and while they’re a long-lived species, eventually the adults were dying of old age without reproducing,” Mulvihill said. “So we began to see a population decline.”
According to Mulvihill there are two other nesting pairs in the Pittsburgh area. A pair in Crescent Township nested the last two years, and a pair in Harmar began attempts at nesting last year but we're not successful.
Bald eagles are in two-thirds of Pennsylvania counties, according to Mulvihill. The population used to be concentrated in the northwestern part of the state around Pymatuning and in the southeast along the Susquehanna River.
“They’re protected by being so many places that one single event like a bad rain storm or ice storm...isn’t likely to impact the statewide population very much,” Mulvihill said.
The National Aviary has a feed from its live eagle nest cam on its website at www.aviary.org/nestcams.