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02/14/12
A very hungry little eaglet
Filed under: General, Birding & Outdoors, Florida & SE US, Bald Eagle Nest
Posted by: Ken @ 7:28 pm

On Saturday (February 11) Mary Lou and I watched the local Bald Eagle nest for over an hour from a little before 8:00 AM. It was cloudy and 70 degrees (F) with a mild breeze from the west. It had rained during the early morning hours. When we arrived we found no adult eagle on or near the nest. No eaglet was visible.

The female was drying her wings in the dead Melaleuca grove to the west of the wooded area. Oh the joys of motherhood! She had been soaked. Her eaglet(s) has apparently not learned to mute over the side of the nest (or has a bad aim), so she is also stained with its excrement.

The wind picked up and shifted to the NW and the eagle changed position to face into the wind.

A light rain started falling as we departed. At no time did we see any eaglet. A couple of other watchers arrived just before we left, so I hoped they were able to visualize a prey drop and maybe determine whether there is another eaglet in the nest. 

The next day (Sunday morning, February 12), Mary Lou and I checked on the nest at 10:00 AM. The first-hatched eaglet was four weeks old. So far we had seen only a single eaglet on the nest.  It was 50 degrees (F) with a brisk wind from the north. We immediately heard very loud cries coming from the nest. Both adults were together on a branch a few feet above the nest, flapping their wings and shrieking. There may have been a mating attempt, or they were fighting. Before I could raise my binoculars or camera, the female suddenly dropped directly down on the nest, not in controlled flight, and the calls stopped.

The male continued roosting above the nest for a few minutes while the female engaged in feeding the young chick(s). One chick popped its head up quite high, but had almost disappeared from sight when I took a few photos. Only the top of the head of one nestling is visible in the photo below. The male then flew out towards the road and to the east, disappearing to the south at the corner of 208th Avenue.

Several of my photos strongly suggest that the female has been recently injured. Abrasions or small lacerations were visible both above and below the anterior brow. The lower injury was quite close to her left eye. Sometimes the birds get bloodied from dissecting prey, but this does not look like simple blood smear. I wish we had arrived just a couple of minutes earlier so we could better interpret the unusual behavior.

The female then settled down to shelter the eaglet, and almost disappeared from sight.

This morning (Tuesday, February 14) we watched the Bald Eagle nest for a little over an hour, starting about 9:30 AM. The adult female was roosting on a horizontal limb above the nest. We could see the top of the head of one eaglet on the nest.

A sub-adult Red-shouldered Hawk flew in and perched about 10 feet above the eagle. The eagle called briefly but otherwise seemed not to pay attention to the hawk, which flew off after a few minutes.

The male eagle suddenly appeared high over the nest, approaching from the south. He appeared to be carrying prey, but he continued in a NW direction. The female (photo below) flew after him and both disappeared in the distance.

Shortly thereafter we were surprised to see the female return to roost in a dead Melaleuca trunk just west of the nest. I ran over to photograph her as Mary Lou continued to watch the nest. (I could see no sign of injury to its face as I had suspected earlier). Mary Lou called me on my cell to relate that the male had suddenly appeared on the nest, presumably coming in from the opposite side.

The male tore at the prey, which appeared to be a white bird, and fed the chick. I took over 200 photos, trying to see if there may be a second eaglet, but they showed only a single offspring. Photographing the baby eagle was like spelling “banana;” I didn’t know when to stop!



For a summary of key observations over the past four breeding seasons of this pair of eagles, click here (PDF)

Visit the Pembroke Pines (Florida) Bald Eagle Nest Watch FORUM

One Response to “A very hungry little eaglet”

  1. Gene Vermillion Says:
    An excellent series of photographs and posts. Thanks for sharing.

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