Pip, pip, hooray!
The first of two baby American bald eagles has begun to hatch in Fort Myers, Florida, delighting millions of people who have tuned in to watch the eaglets emerge.
The build up to the hatching is being live-streamed 24/7 by the Southwest Florida Eagle Camera, offering a close-up look at the lives of female bald eagle Harriet and her mate, M15.
On Thursday afternoon, viewers caught a glimpse of the beginning of the hatching process, the first crack in an egg’s shell. The first break in the shell is called a pip, according to the National Eagle Center.
The eagle cam, hosted by a real estate company, has been chronicling Harriet’s nesting seasons since 2012. Then, 16 million people tuned in to watch Harriet and her former mate Ozzie raise two eaglets from their birth to fledge, according to the company’s website.
This year, the stream has amassed more than 57,670,000 views so far, according to the site.
“We have a PIP in one egg!! The hatching process has begun,” read a post on the eagle cam website Thursday afternoon.
Harriet found her current mate M15 — short for "Male 2015" — last year after Ozzie died following a fight with another male eagle in the area, according to the eagle cam website.
The new mates eventually bonded and had two offspring last December. “The young eaglets continued to thrive and develop into juvenile eagles” before fledging the nest in the spring, according to the site. This is Harriet and M15’s second nesting season in Fort Myers.
Florida has one of the densest concentrations of nesting bald eagles in the United States, with an estimated 1,500 nesting pairs, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Russ Ochs, with the Audubon Society and McGough Nature Park in Florida, told NBC affiliate WXIA the eggs “will likely hatch one day apart.”
Their parents will then take turns hunting and protecting the eaglets, Ochs said, and will stay at the nest for about three months, until they’re grown and can fly. The eggs were laid on Nov. 22 and 25.
It can take an entire day for the hatchlings to completely break through their egg after pipping, according to the National Eagle Center.
Bald eagles in Florida return to their nest territories in the fall. Females typically lay one to three eggs and incubation lasts about 35 days, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Bald eagles in the wild can live up to 28 years, according to the commission. The species was removed from the federal endangered species list in 2007 thanks to conservation efforts, according to the commission. The bald eagle is still protected by law and it is illegal to disturb or take an eagle in Florida.
A disclaimer on the eagle cam page says it best:
"Eagles are wild birds and anything can happen in the wild. The Southwest Florida Eagle Camera (SWFEC) does not interfere or intervene and allows nature to take its course. You will see life and you might see death, but this is nature at her finest."