Posts Tagged ‘incubating’

Nesting Bald Eagles

My oldest son reported seeing 2 eagles on the nest. Needless to say, I left within minutes.

IMG_8271 crop red

One eagle kept its head down in the top of the nest. The one on the left faced the other direction, which put its tail towards me.  The head on the one would come up for a short time and then go back down. I had no idea what it was doing.

IMG_8292 crop red

Then they just sat there. This was 2 in the afternoon.

IMG_8301 crop redThis last picture was taken a little closer to the nest.

I watched them for 10 minutes and took the above picture when going to turn around.

 Something apparently happened to the young last year, because they quit nesting activities. I do so hope this year’s nesting is successful.

This visit was on January 21.



The major cold front crossing the country came through our side of southern Illinois Tuesday night after 10 p.m.  I had just finished my breakfast the next morning and had a sudden thought, “the eagle nest.” Did it survive the storm? It wasn’t long before Buffy and I were on our way to check.

IMG_9517 alt red

The nest could be seen from the highway. What a relief! The huge tree lost a trunk a few years ago. I figured it wasn’t as balanced and strong as it should be, and that 70 mph winds could do damage.

IMG_9511 crop alt red

I parked back at my usual spot near a substation so I, hopefully, wouldn’t pressure the eagles. The white head in the nest — I knew all was OK. After taking a few pictures, I drove on to turn around. And there across the road, in a tree sat …

IMG_9526 crop red

the other eagle! That’s how you can tell you’re having a good day!


  I now wonder if the one in the nest was incubating eggs, and the other one was standing guard. As you can see in the pictures in the top of this blog, how the one kept its head bent down. This went on for over 5 minutes. Maybe she was laying eggs.


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 —  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.