Cainism - Cruelty or Necessity?
To the relief of most, the second egg in the Black Eagle nest did not hatch as expected. A relief? Yes, simply because the results of a hatching would have produced a few days of difficult viewing. Cainism, a dreaded word for empathic animal lovers, is a term used to describe the behavior of the oldest chick during the few days of life for the youngest chick. Soon after his sibling hatches, the oldest chick dominates the nest. He is stronger and takes all the food, not allowing the youngest to feed. Oldest chicks often peck at the youngest chick, weakening it even further. The youngest chick dies within a few days and becomes food for the eagles. When the egg doesn't hatch, the adult eagle will crack it open herself and eat the remains, discarding the shell. Cruel and unnecessary? No...not if you look at the big picture of nature itself.
Birds of prey, in this case the Black Eagles, must insure the survival of the next generation. In order to achieve this, a clutch of two eggs provides the best chance of one being healthy and growing to adulthood. The high rate of growth and demand for huge amounts of food make it difficult for the parents to provide for more than one chick. A single chick can eat the equivalent of a couple of steaks for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Many raptor chicks consume as much as 3-4 times the amount that an adult does. During the first six weeks of life, the young birds often double in size every other day until, and in just a couple months, they are as large as the parents.
The young chick in the this Black Eagle nest has already grown a significant amount since hatching. In spite of the shrinking habitat due to development, this pair has managed to find enough to feed this demanding young bird. The need for food will increase rapidly, putting a huge demand on the father who spends most of his day flying high in the sky searching for food.
The beauty of these magnificent birds is breathtaking. Eyes that can see beyond what we can imagine, speed to catch their prey, and talons that can both kill and step gently around the fragile chick are just a few of the things that captivate us. They are regal in flight, and intimidating as they perch on a high tree and survey the area for prey.
While cainism is a word that brings high emotions, we should realize it is simply a way of insuring the continuation of this species. Harsh and cold? Perhaps, but losing the species would be far worse than sacrificing the one.