Two bald eagle parents found themselves with an extra egg after a recent hunt that was captured on video.
While being recorded by researchers from the University of Minnesota’s Raptor Center, a male eagle brought back a mother duck to his mate and chicks for dinner. As the eagles prepared to consume the duck, an unlaid egg fell out of the duck and into the nest. The eagles initially didn’t pay much attention to it, and set to feeding the chicks. After the male left, however, the mother eagle noticed the errant egg and rolled it towards the center of the nest with the chicks, and sat on it.
It is likely that the eagle mistook the duck egg for one of its own. Like mammals, many birds can “adopt” a member of another species. This is especially common among species like the cuckoo, which is a brood parasite and will intentionally lay their eggs in the nests of other birds for them to raise. This relieves the cuckoo of the pressure of having to raise and provide for young chicks as well as the arduous task of building a nest. Other birds such as cowbirds, some pheasants, and black-headed ducks also practice brood parasitism.
Eagle species have been documented adopting chicks of other species before, but this duck egg is not safe yet.
“The eagles will immediately recognize that it’s not an eaglet,” Julia Ponder, the raptor center’s executive director, told Fox 9.
Ponder doubts that the duckling, if it even hatches, will survive for long. If its new parents don’t kill it, Ponder said they are unlikely to stay in the nest long enough to rear the duckling until it can leave. However, anything is possible and as of Monday, the duck egg was still inside the nest. You can watch the eagles live on camera here.