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Already? Pittsburgh Hays eagles have a new egg

| Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017, 3:48 p.m.
Mary Ann Thomas | Tribune-Review
Eagle watchers line up along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail in Pittsburgh's Hays neighborhood for a glimpse of the nesting bald eagles on Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012. From the eagles' behavior, it appears they have an egg in their new nest.

Update —

The Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania on Monday confirmed that the Hays bald eagles have an egg.

Rachel Handel of Audubon said observers cannot see inside the eagles' new nest but are convinced the pair are sitting on an egg because of their behavior, including that the birds have not left the nest unattended for more than 24 hours and the birds appear to be turning an egg while in the nest.

Bald eagle watchers in Pittsburgh's Hays neighborhood suspect the formerly homeless raptors have a new egg in a new nest.

After a windstorm toppled their nest tree only a week ago, with the birds losing their first egg of the season, the pair started to build a new nest near their old one Wednesday on a hill overlooking the Monongahela River.

Starting early Sunday morning, observers watched the birds taking turns laying in the nest continuously throughout the day.

“It's a good sign that there's an egg but it may be a little early to call it definitively,” said Jim Bonner, executive director of the Audubon Society of Pennsylvania.

“This pair is a tremendously resilient and determined pair,” he said. “This is their third nest, obviously they like the area.”

If the birds are still at the nest continuously, laying down as they would if they were incubating an egg on Monday, then there is probably an egg, Bonner said.

“It's certainly physically possible she laid an egg and she has the physical ability to lay another fertile egg,” Bonner said.

It takes 35 days of incubation before a hatch.

Monitoring the eagles' behavior from the ground is the only way to verify nesting, a method researchers relied on when monitoring the nesting of bald eagles when they were endangered.

“That's how we knew the Harmar birds had eggs in their nest before we set up a webcam on their nest last year,” Bonner said.

Those eagles, who are in their fourth year of nesting, are expected to lay their first egg in the next week or two.

Sunday's warm weather turned out a gaggle of eagle watchers in Hays who were not disappointed with the spectacular views of the birds taking turns leaving the nest against a clear blue sky.

“They are truly magnificent to see fly,” said Nancy Miller, 61, of Altoona, a native of Monroeville who visited the Hays site Sunday.

“I had to come and see their new nest,” she said. “I drove 100 miles and it was worth it.”

Throughout the day, at least 30 people were lined up with binoculars, spotting scopes and cameras along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, watching the birds.

They included Bill Powers, CEO of PixController, the Murrysville company that set up webcams at the eagle nests in Hays and Harmar.

Unfortunately, since the eagles are in a new nest, they cannot be seen from the existing webcam there and the camera cannot be moved, according to Powers. Federal regulations prohibit disturbance around nesting bald eagles.

However, Powers hopes to set up a new webcam in Hays next season before nesting begins.

The Hays birds, in the fifth nesting season, are the first pair of bald eagles to nest within the city limits in more than 150 years.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4691 or mthomas@tribweb.com.

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