"Black Eagles~Against the Odds"

South African Black Eagle (Africam)

"Situated on a cliff adjacent to the Witpooltjie Falls in the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens in South Africa is our Black Eagle (Aquila verrearxii) pair, Emoyeni and Thulane.  They have been together since 1998, when Emoyeni's previous mate, Quatele, dissappeared.  Thulane was just becoming mature when they paired. Emoyeni is approximately 40 years old and Thulane is approximately 20.


Emoyeni (“UPON THE WIND”) and Chick

Emoyeni laid eggs this year on April 15 and 19, respectively.  Neither hatched and were declared nonviable on June 5, 2013.  That should have been the end of their nesting season, but Emoyeni had other ideas!  On August 14 and 18, Emoyeni laid a second clutch.  The first egg hatched on September 28, 2013, and since the second egg was due October 2, it is most likely nonviable.  This is the second time Emoyeni has laid a second clutch of eggs.  In 1994, Emoyeni made the history books by laying an unheard of second clutch, and the following year again for laying a history making 3 egg clutch, which is extremely rare for Black Eagles.  In 1994, the eaglet was chased from the territory before he was prepared to survive in the wild and was killed by a caracal. 

There are challenges to successfully raising a second clutch, one of which is the heat of summer.  Black Eagles do better in cooler weather.  The heat on the rock cliff is difficult for the adults at best, but brutal for a young eaglet. Normal egg laying occurs during late April and early May, which is during the S.A. winter, with fledging occurring approximately in 97 days in June.  Again, during their winter.  This eaglet hatched at the beginning of their spring, with fledging due to happen January 2, during summer. 

Another challenge will be timing.  Since nest rebuilding and renovation begins in the middle of February, the adults don't have much time to rejuvenate themselves to prepare for a new nesting season.  To quote Libby Woodcock, former Director of Black Eagle Project Roodekrans, when it looked like Emoyeni might lay a second clutch "It is way too late in the breeding season for them to lay again. For starters it will severely interfere with next years breeding cycle. Should they lay now the chick will only hatch sometime in September when the weather is hot. Fledging then will happen towards the end of the year which means the juvenile will only leave the nesting area in March. The problem being is the juvenile MAY be chased from the area sooner as the new season starts mid Feb. If the juvenile has not had the full 3 months of learning survival skills with the adults there is a good chance it will be unable to survive on its own in the wild. The adults then also don't get what we call a resting period. Breeding this late is fraught with all sorts of problems and it will be the juvenile that suffers." 

There ARE challenges, but Emoyeni has beaten the odds before and we can only hope she does again this year. She's one determined mom!  We wish her and her family well and a successful fledge for the eaglet.

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