Bald Eagles Who Gripped the Internet Finally Abandon Eggs That Won't Hatch

The two bald eagles that have long captured the internet's attention have finally abandoned a clutch of eggs that were very overdue to hatch.

The California Big Bear Valley bald eagles, known as Jackie and Shadow, have been watching over the clutch of eggs since January, for well over the usual incubation period of 35 days, according to Facebook posts by non-profit Friends of Big Bear Valley.

Despite this, the two mates have continued to watch over the two eggs, even as severe blizzards hit the region.

Bald eagles are the largest birds in North America, as well as the U.S. national bird.

Jackie has a worldwide fanbase, having been observed via a webcam operated by Friends of Big Bear Valley for over a decade. The webcam has captured the highs and lows of Jackie's life throughout the years and thousands of people still tune in around the globe. Shadow came onto the scene in 2018, and has been her mate ever since.

Experts have suspected for a while now that this particular clutch of eggs would not hatch. Eagle eggs sometimes fail to hatch for a multitude of reasons, including hypothermia, hyperthermia, toxic organisms making their way into the shell, or insufficient egg turning.

Lack of egg turning is unlikely to be the cause of these eggs not hatching, as Jackie and Shadow have been tending to the eggs for weeks.

A spokesperson at Friends of Big Bear Valley told Newsweek: "There are times we cannot know exactly why eggs don't hatch—they may not be fertilized, or could have stop developing somewhere along the process for any of a variety of conditions and reasons. Without seeing what is going on inside the eggs during each step of the process, we have no way to know what happens. Each nesting season brings new twists and turns."

Both the male and female bald eagle take turns sitting on the eggs to incubate them. While one incubates, the other searches for food.

Bald eagles perched on branch
A stock photo shows two bald eagles perched on a branch. Two well-known eagles, Jackie and Shadow, have abandoned a clutch of eggs. rruntsch/Getty

Jackie laid these eggs on January 11 and January 14, during severe winter storms that swept through Southern California.

On March 5, the pair eventually came to the decision to leave the nest.

While Jackie seemed to accept that the eggs were not going to hatch, Shadow seemed "more reluctant to let go," the non-profit said on a Facebook group.

"He sat a few times on the nest, but was in and out, like he couldn't make up his mind. He left the eggs alone for a few hours...then apparently couldn't handle leaving them by themselves all night. He returned last night after dark to incubate the eggs again," Friends of Big Bear Valley said on Facebook.

When Jackie arrived shortly afterwards, the non-profit said they appeared to have a "loud, serious back and forth discussion."

After what sounded like "begging" coming from Jackie, Shadow flew away.

Jackie then sat on the eggs again, but only for 3 minutes, before joining Shadow on a nearby tree.

They then started making loud noises once again.

This is not the first time this has happened with the pair. Friends of Big Bear Valley said that Shadow often has problems accepting that some eggs won't hatch.

As Jackie only sat on the eggs for a few more minutes, the non-profit suggested this may have been a tactic in order to get Shadow to leave. But still, "intense chortling" coming from the eagles indicated that Shadow "did not agree with her decision to leave the eggs."

Shadow himself decided to sit on the eggs all throughout the night. He eventually left at 4.30 a.m. the next morning. On March 6, it seemed that Jackie "finally convinced him to accept what was happening." Neither eagle returned to the nest.

It is not the first time Jackie has lost a clutch of eggs. Throughout her time being observed on the webcam, she has lost about a dozen.

It is not certain what will happen to the abandoned eggs now. It is possible that a predator, such as a raven, will eat them.

"With that said, and as we knew may be possible, at 14:55 yesterday, two ravens visited the nest and breached the eggs. Both eggs looked undeveloped: either they were not fertilized or development stopped very early on for some reason (there is no way to determine that an egg is unfertilized without candling)," the spokesperson told Newsweek.

"It means that when Jackie and Shadow unexpectedly started leaving their eggs unattended on and after Feb 10, there were no developed chicks inside. This is part of Mother Nature's circle of life. During these sad times, we have learned to reflect on Jackie and Shadow's amazing resilience. They have always found a way forward to the next clutch or nesting season bonding and bickering and bringing us joy."

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Update, 03/08/23, 11:06 a.m. ET: This article has been updated to include quotes from a Friends of Big Bear Valley spokesperson.