After weeks of waiting, bald eagles Ozzie and Harriet saw their latest brood hatch in time for the holidays.
The first eaglet, named E3 for now, hatched late Monday night in its nest on the Pritchett Real Estate property on Bayshore Road and seemed to be doing fine, judging its appearance on the Pritchett eagle cam late Tuesday.
The second eaglet, named E4, hatched Christmas morning shortly after 10 a.m., just 36 hours after E3's appearance.
The newest hatchlings. To view the eagle family in action, visit the live cam at dickpritchettrealestate.com/eagle-feed.html
Neither baby was camera shy.
E3, who had stayed undercover in the warmth of its mother overnight, came out in full force Tuesday morning, showing itself with Ozzie looking down proudly.
Another still photo showed Harriet squawk angrily at a potential threat to the nest shortly after 2:30 p.m.
Another early photo still showed the baby sitting alone in the nest, which doesn't happen often as the eagles had split their time keeping the baby and their then-still-incubating egg warm and safe.
E4 seemed to have some trouble breaking out of its shell Wednesday morning, but came out and was also appeared to be both happy and healthy as both babies were fed by Ozzie Thursday afternoon.
According to National Geographic, it can take from 12 to 48 hours for a baby to hatch after making the first break in the shell.
Now that the eggs have hatched, Harriett's vigilance has become constant. Ozzie will provide the majority of the food needed by his family.
Michelle Van Deventer, eagle expert at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, said that vigilance is necessary, given the rate these eaglets will grow.
"It's fun to watch the development. The first two weeks they'll stay that gray fluffy color. It won't be noticeable, but they'll put on a lot of weight," Van Deventer said. "After two weeks, they become thermoregularatory and can balance their own body heat. At that point, the parents won't have to sit on them as much."
Around four weeks, you start to see the plumage and color change, where they begin to look like a Thanksgiving turkey, Van Deventer said.
A few weeks later, the flight feathers will begin to emerge.
"The first few weeks, it's all about the weight gain. From the eagle cam, you get a sense of how big the young are. By the time they reach eight to 14 weeks, they probably will weigh more than the adults because all they do is sit and eat," Van Deventer said.
Van Deventer said because eagles are top predators, it helps them protect their young. That doesn't mean there aren't threats from other animals, such as raccoons and hawks.
"A number of animals will take them if given an opportunity. A bold vulture or crow might try it. Mom and dad are pretty fearsome obstacles," Van Deventer said. "That's why we put emphasis on not spooking eagles off of nests."
The eagle cam has seen a lot of traffic in recent days as the countdown began on Sunday. The few hundred simultaneous viewers grew to several thousand as the second egg began to hatch on Christmas day and the "hit" counter crept closer to the 20 million mark.
Meanwhile, many came from all over to have a peek at the family in person from the church next door.
Nora Lang came from the northern part of the state to see the nest and found the experience amazing.
"Who thought years ago we would be able to pry into the private lives of eagles? Whenever people come here, they leave with smiles on their faces," Lang said. "I hadn't seen an eagle until I came, and it's nice of the Pritchetts to have this set up."
Ozzie and Harriet returned to Southwest Florida in late September after fledging its two offspring, Hope and Honor, last year.
E3 was laid on Nov. 17 and came into the world a hair more than the 35 days it normally takes for an egg to hatch. E4 was laid the following Wednesday.
To view the eagle family in action, visit the live cam at dickpritchettrealestate.com/eagle-feed.html