April 2, 2014: Sometimes there are no answers, and this is one of those times.
Something obviously happened as to how Independence perceived the first two eaglets that were hatched in her Dollywood nest this year. When the first eaglet was observed with no signs of life yesterday, one day after hatching, Al Cecere went to the nest and confirmed the baby was deceased. He removed the baby from the nest and examined it carefully. No signs of injury were visible, and the baby was perfectly formed.
Today, immediately after the second egg hatched. Indy, who has successfully raised 29 eaglets, killed the baby instantly. That leads us to strongly suspect that she was also responsible for the first eaglet's death.
Both babies had been healthy and were acting normally both inside their shells and on the first day they hatched out.
The third egg has been removed from the nest and placed in an incubator, where it is now pipping. A wooden egg was placed in the nest to replace the 3rd real egg. The wooden egg will remain there for several more days.
The eaglet that will hatch from egg 3 will not be placed back in Indy and Frank's nest. It will be fostered in another nest.
We are grieving over the loss of these two perfect babies, and we are struggling to understand why Indy did this; it has never happened before. Indy and Frank have been perfect parents for many years.
The breeding season had seemed very normal. When Indy and Frank were returned to the aviary in February, they began nestorations and acted as they always do. Three eggs were laid, but they were all infertile. Wooden eggs were placed in the nest, and then recently replaced with fertile eggs from other nests for Indy and Frank to incubate and raise. Indy and Frank carefully and diligently tended both the wooden eggs and the real eggs. No unusual behavior was noted at any time, and the nest was continually monitored.
Our only clue is that when the aviary was damaged by a storm last summer, Indy seemed to have been injured, because it was more difficult for her to get around. In time, she appeared to be doing fine. However, recently it was observed that her balance seemed off as she would get up from the eggs and walk around the nest. That's the only significant difference anyone has noticed.
It is too early for long-term decisions to be made about how the cam will operate for the remainder of the season, but updates will be posted as soon as possible.