Nesting Bald Eagles

Male perched close, protecting its nest.

Buffy and I took a morning drive to check on a pair of nesting bald eagles. The morning was sunny, with light wind and temperature in low 50’s. I saw the male eagle perched in a tree before I even turned off the highway. It was perched in a row of trees along a fence line perpendicular to the highway. The nest was across a blacktop road further back from where male was perched. The female’s white head was just above the top of the nest.

I only go there about every 2 weeks or so because I don’t want to stress the eagles. I know there must be many others interested in them too.

A strong storm last year took down the right trunk of the cottonwood tree and the nest with it (see picture below). The young didn’t survive. So, it was a pleasant surprise to find that the pair had built a nest in the remaining trunk.

Female incubating

I vividly remember the first eagle I ever saw. It was near its nest too. My youngest daughter and I were on a Christmas bird count in the closed area of a refuge. We even got to eat lunch there and watch the eagles across the inlet. Eagles numbers were low back then.

Bald eagles get their white head and tail when they’re 3-4 years old. They mate for life and can live to 30 years in the wild. Their diet consists of fish, small mammals, especially rabbits, waterfowl, and carrion. They build their nest 30-60 feet high in the fork of a tree. She lays 1-3 bluish-white eggs (usually 2). The eggs are incubated for 34-36 days. Eagles are semi-altricial. Altricial means the eaglet is incapable of moving on its own after hatching. The young take their first flight when they’e between 10-13 weeks old.

The right trunk, with nest, went down in storm last year

I found out in my research that eagles have hatching asynchrony, meaning they begin incubating when the first egg is laid. This results in a size difference between the first and last to hatch. I found a barred owl nest years ago in the cavity of a dead tree. I watched the 4 owlets taking turns perching on a horizontal ledge of the nesting cavity. There was considerable size difference between the youngest and oldest. The youngest lacked the balance of the older ones, and had to keep grabbing the side of the opening, with its beak to stabilize itself.

Norfolk Botanical Gardens in Norfolk, VA has a website — www.wvec.com/eagle/cam.  They have 3 video cams set up close to monitor to nesting activities. You can watch the eagles in real time. You can ask questions on their open chat, and view slide shows of previous days and last year.

And if all goes well with the nesting this season, I’ll be following this pair in my blogs.

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Anna on March 11, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    Wow! Nice pic! 😀 It is sort of rare to see an eagle flying across the sky or in a nest here. I have seen one probably 1 or 2 times.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Therese Beavers on March 11, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    Great pictures. I especially like the picture of the male in the tree. Good zoom on him.

    Reply

  3. I remember that exact trip! We warmed chunky soup on the little stove. No matter how many times you see a bald eagle, each time is just as special!

    Reply

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