Bald eagle watchers on the Semiahmoo Peninsula are celebrating the arrival of the first egg of the season.
Wednesday (Feb. 24), fans watching a 24/7 live video feed of two eagles nesting on the South Surrey Eagle Preserve, located near 0 Avenue and 172 Street, noted the mother laid an egg at approximately 4:02 p.m.
The eagle watchers have been posting photos of the egg on the Hancock Wildlife Foundation website, and offering congratulations to the parents, which they have dubbed “Sur” and “Res.”
The preserve – the first of its kind in the city – was originally pitched, and subsequently built, by local biologist David Hancock. Founder of the Hancock Wildlife Foundation, he offered to build the nest after an eagle tree in the area was cut down to make way for “The Eagles” townhome project. Developers Dawson & Sawyer, the City of Surrey, and the province struck an agreement to set aside a half-acre parcel of land for the bald eagle preserve. The preserve is one of a number of nests Hancock has built throughout the Lower Mainland. All of the nests he’s built, he said, are occupied by eagles.
In an interview with Peace Arch News Thursday, Hancock said, generally, mothers lay two eggs every season. It takes 36 to 37 days for an egg to hatch. From there, it takes another 83 to 84 days before the eaglet begins to fly.
What’s interesting, Hancock added, is that once the eaglet begins to fly, the raptor will be the largest size of its lifespan, slightly losing weight as it matures. Its wingspan will also shrink by about five inches, to 6’1”.
I’ts unusual, but it makes sense when you understand the reason, he added.
“The ‘why’ is kind of interesting. When they’re making that first flight in the first year or two off the nest, they’re not very good flyers. They’re not going to catch anything for a year or two – they’re just going to be scavengers. The big thing, can they fly 1,000 miles or glide 1,000 miles to where there’s dead food lying on the riverside?” Hancock said.
“If a young eaglet leaves here, in two or three days it can be in Alaska and the smorgasbord is all set up there in August. Dead fish everywhere. It doesn’t take a great deal of skill to catch a dead fish.”
Hancock said both parents share egg-incubating duties.
While Res and Sur are considered local eagles, because they nested in South Surrey, approximately 35,000 other raptors from northern Canada and Alaska have descended on the area, while lakes and rivers up north are in a deep freeze. Once the northern fresh water thaws, those eagles will fly back north in search of food.
“They need to go where the dead salmon are,” Hancock said, when asked to explain how the eagles find their directions.
“And the dead salmon, in July, are all in the north – they are not here. They learned, if you go north, you survive. If you don’t go north to where the dead salmon are, you’re not going to survive.
“They have learned by natural selection. Those who instinctively go north have a chance of survival.”