I watched the adult eagle feeding the eaglets several times yesterday early evening, and I was struck by how much the older, bolder chick was favored with the food. And by how much it pecked at its weaker sibling.
At one point, it rolled over backwards and became wedged between the remaining egg and its smaller bro/sis. When it righted itself, its tail was facing the feeding adult instead of its beak. I thought for sure the adult was going to feed the little one, but instead it walked 180 degrees around its nest and fed the larger eaglet from a toothsome chunk of fish balanced on the edge of the nest.
The larger one got himself turned around and pecked at the smaller one until it just lay in the nest, no longer even asking for food.
Adults in the animal world are programmed to support the strongest of their young in order to assure the continuation of the species. If the little loser somehow gets the strength and gumption to get some of the food being offered, maybe it will survive, too.
I think one of the most extreme cases of not bothering with weaklings from the brood is shown by the American Coot,
Coots will grab onto the weakest in their unusually large hatchings and either peck it to death or hold it under water until it drowns.
Shortly after I took the above photo, the Coot menaced a pair of Mallards who were getting too close to his “space.”
The Mallards couldn’t get away fast enough.
It’ll be an interesting dynamic once the third egg hatches—I haven’t had time today to see if is has or has not.
Join the fun at http://www.ustream.tv/decoraheagles
My thanks to James Young for sending me the URL.