Big Bear bald eagles Jackie and Shadow welcome new eaglet

After two years of tragedy, Big Bear’s celebrity bald eagle couple Jackie and Shadow welcomed a healthy baby to their family last week.

The Friends of Big Bear Valley, the group that runs a livestream of the nest, first observed a “pip” — the first hole or crack in the egg to indicate the start of hatching — on Wednesday.

By Thursday afternoon, a gray fuzzball had emerged. “A star is hatched,” the group wrote on its Facebook page in announcing the birth.

The eaglet’s father, Shadow, was at the nest for the hatching, pacing about “like an expectant father-to-be.”

The baby is the first born to the couple after Jackie’s eggs were either nonviable or eaten by ravens in the last two years. A second egg remains in the nest and is expected to hatch soon.

A juvenile bald eagle has less than a 50% chance of surviving its first year of life, according to the American Eagle Foundation.

The group reassured observers concerned about a winter storm that hit the San Bernardino County mountains over the weekend, saying the experienced couple would “keep the chick and remaining egg covered and warm, just as they have for previous storms.”

All seemed well as of Sunday, with the chick having eight feedings in one day and its first on-camera poop, the group said on Facebook.

Friends of Big Bear Valley will host a donation-based naming contest with local third-graders once both chicks have hatched.

The group has been closely documenting the couple’s familial journey, announcing on Facebook on Jan. 22: “It appears Jackie is laying an egg.”

After the egg was laid, Jackie practiced “delayed incubation,” where an eagle hovers over the egg for periods of time instead of lying on it full time to allow it to cool. This slows development so all of her eggs will hatch closer together, giving the eaglets a better chance of survival, the group said.

A second egg followed three days later, which was typical for the mother-to-be. The first was predicted to hatch around 38 to 39 days after laying, and the second one to two days later.

For weeks, Jackie and Shadow worked together to incubate the egg, occasionally bickering over whose turn it was and jostling each other out of the nest. Shadow left to hunt for food, bringing the mother-to-be a whole fish every day during one particularly prolific week.

Other curious critters, including Fiona the San Bernardino Flying Squirrel, dropped by the nest, only to get wing-slapped. In one echo of the past, the Facebook page posted about Jackie and Shadow defending the nest from a “curious and persistent raven.”

Thousands of devotees, many of whom have been following Jackie and Shadow’s path to parenthood for years, expressed well-wishes for the two resilient eagles while the human world was ravaged by conflict and disease.

“During the height [of] covid lockdowns and ugliness of human behavior, I found these two — and tuned every evening to cheer them on, happy to witness in the animal world what I saw lacking in the human world at that time,” one Facebook user commented.

“Jackie and Shadow instill a sense of determination, optimism and promise we can all embrace,” another wrote.

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