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on April 11, 2013 at 5:00 PM, updated April 11, 2013 at 5:06 PM
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Like nervous parents-to-be, officials with Cleveland Metroparks are breathing a sigh of relief today after they learned an eaglet was born safely Wednesday night in its nest at Rocky River Reservation.
"It's definitely been a range of emotions," said Metroparks naturalist Valerie Fetzer. "We were expecting it would not hatch. Yesterday was big news."
Metroparks officials and visitors had grown concerned when a male eagle was found dead on Interstate 480 on April 1. It was believed the male eagle was part of pair nesting at Rocky River.
Because male and female eagles share duties keeping the egg incubated, there were worries the egg or eggs would not hatch.
But a nest watcher saw the eaglet had hatched on Wednesday, said Metroparks spokesperson Bob Rotatori.
"(The nest watcher) has been keeping an eye on it and hoping for the best, and she told us (Wednesday night) it happened," Rotatori said.
Observers had heard the female eagle crying out for her missing mate. This is the fourth year the pair had nested in the Rocky River Reservation, and they successfully raised eaglets the three previous years, Fetzer said.
Just as exciting as the birth of the eaglet is that the female apparently has accepted a new male, which is now helping her, Fetzer said. The male began hanging around the nest last week, but the female initially rejected him.
"It's been an interesting saga," Fetzer said. "She did not care for his presence. He would come near the nest and she would swat him away. It wasn’t looking very positive."
The male eagle has been seen bringing the female grass and food, and the female is now accepting the gifts, Fetzer said.
The help of the male is important as the eaglet grows because it can help keep the eaglet warm when the mother leaves the nest to gather food. The eaglet won't leave the nest for 10 to 13 weeks.
The new pairing also increases the chances they will return to the nest in Rocky River in the future, she said.
"It does look very promising," Fetzer said. "I would think if they’re getting along and they are raising the eaglet together they will probably stay together."
Fetzer said it's unknown if there are more eggs in the nest, but the original male and female had only one eaglet during each of the previous three years. A female can lay up to three eggs, which usually occurs between mid-February to late March, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' website.