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Rita And Ron's Third Bald Eagle Chick Hatches But 'Will Have To Fight To Survive'

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami's most famous bald eagles, Ron and Rita, are now the parents of a third bald eagle chick following the hatching of their third egg on Thursday morning.

The first one eaglet came on New Year's Day and third one came on Three Kings Day.

Third Bald Eagle Egg Hatches
Third bald eagle hatches (Ron Magill/Zoo Miami)

"Rita" laid her first egg the day before Thanksgiving and the rest came soon after.

The Ron Magill Conservation Endowment and Wildlife Rescue of Dade County teamed up to build an artificial platform for the eagles in an undisclosed location after their original one was destroyed during a storm last March.

In addition to the custom-built platform, they installed state-of-the-art cameras for 24-hour viewing on a live Eagle Cam which provides intimate views into the nest.

WATCH: Third Eaglet Hatches


After the successful hatching of the first two eggs, Magill wasn't sure whether the third one would actually hatch.

"It turns out the first one hatches on New Year's Day, how beautifully prophetic is this? What a way to bring in the new year, we're thinking this is fantastic. The next one hatched the next day on January 2, the third one, several days went by, nothing happens. And then this morning on Three Kings Day. It's as if they're following the script to a movie. I cannot believe how well this is working out," said Magill.

Bald eagles are monogamous and mate for life, usually returning to the same nest year after year and building upon it.

They usually lay only two eggs so having this pair lay three has been a "pleasant surprise," said Magill.

Successfully raising three eaglets is rare because they are often aggressive toward one another.

Though difficult to watch, it is a natural behavior where the dominant chick tries to eliminate competition for food.  This third chick has the odds stacked very high against it as it is significantly smaller and weaker than its siblings.

"Those two chicks are going to beat up on it quite a bit. It's going to have to really fight to survive. But listen, at the end of the day, this chick was born on Three Kings Day, it seems so symbolic to me. We got three chicks Three Kings Day, hopefully these three chicks all grow up to be royalty," Magill told CBS4 News.

That would be nice but first, they all have to survive.

Third Bald Eagle Egg Hatches
Third bald eagle hatches (Ron Magill/Zoo Miami)

"One of the things that we have really dedicated ourselves to is to let nature take its course," said Magill. "It's survival of the fittest here. Hopefully they all three can. But the odds are very much against this third chick. So I want to, I want to be straight with the viewers and with the people who've been following this on the eagle cam. This chick has some real serious challenges. We need to prepare for the worst , hope for the best. But we do need to prepare for the worst we will not interfere. We have to let nature run its course."

He added, "Our hope is that they can at least fledge one chick, that'll be a huge achievement, because bald eagles are only successful 50% of the time in raising chicks to where they can fledge from the nest. So if they can raise at least one chick, it will be a huge success."

The eagles are named after Ron Magill and his wife Rita.

"They are incredibly dedicated parents," he said proudly but added again, watching the siblings fight is sometimes hard to watch but completely natural.

"You'll see these siblings fight and that's totally natural. Because in birds of prey, they will fight each other sometimes killing the subordinate one so they can monopolize the food. It's not like a brother sister. I love you. I love you. You're my brother, my sister. It's I hate you. I hate you because you're competing for my food. So it may be difficult to watch some times because the fighting can get pretty intense."

Even though the odds may be against the youngest chick, he (or she) is pretty smart.

"What happens is, the dominant chick will beat it up really badly and it'll just lay down flat, almost like playing dead. And then the dominant chick eats and eats and eats until it goes into like a food coma and passes out. And then the subordinate chick looks up and sees that he's down. And then he gets fed. So he's getting food," explained Magill. "He's not getting quite as much as the dominant chick, but he's getting enough to keep up the strength and to defend itself. So as each day goes by with each passing day, he has a better chance of surviving. But again, it is not unusual for one sibling to kill the other and people need to be prepared for that."

To see the live Eagle Cam, click here.

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