8 February 2022
It is difficult not to be over excited about the good things happening on the Southwest Florida Bald Eagle nest. By the time that E21 and E22 fledge, I will probably have called M15 ‘extraordinary’, ‘tremendous’, ‘life saving’ more than a few hundred times. This morning, Wednesday 8 February, six days after his mate Harriet went missing, M15 shows us precisely what a male Bald Eagle can do as a ‘single dad’.
As many of you know, my current research project is actually siblicide – on osprey nests, not eagles. I am interested in the nest survivors of beaking – and so, after Harriet’s disappearance and subsequent fear of our losing 22, I began to pay closer attention to whether or not M15 could ‘right’ this nest. He certainly has and there is so much that can be learned from a single adult – a male – caring for his eaglets. We all need to focus on what he is doing and the impact that it is having on the nest.
This morning in the space of four hours there were six feedings.
The first feeding came in at 08:23:10. It looked like road kill, some fur and some fleshy bits. E21 ate all of it. In the meantime, 22 went over to check out some of the nest overs.
At 09:01:25, M15 is back with what appears to be a fish. It is very difficult to tell. E21 ate the greater portion and then 22 moves up. Was it too late? Apparently. 22 did find some fish tail and is pecking away at it. But no worries…
M15 is back at 09:25:49 with a fish and 22 got it all.
Calm on a Bald Eagle nest.
The fourth item came in at 10:13:20. M15 appears to be distracted. Are there intruders? Looks who is eating.
The fifth prey item comes in at 11:12:03.
Dad is watching and listening. 22 went up to eat first, he got a few bites and then 21 decides he wants to remind him who is dominant. 21 eats a few bites.
Now remember that 21 is actually full from those earlier feedings. 22 moves up and eats.
The item is gone by 11:20:05 when Dad leaves. 22 checks out to see if there are a few nest overs.
At 12:32:40, M15 flies in with a really nice whole fish. What was interesting was that when Dad landed with the food both eaglets paused. No one rushed up to get fed. For a second, 21 leans over and it looks like 22 will go into submission but doesn’t.
And this is where it gets extraordinary. M15 flips the fish over so that it is actually closer to 22 than it is to 21.
At this point, 12:34 you. can clearly see that 21 still has a large crop. 22 doesn’t despite eating earlier. 21 starts playing with some fish parts while Dad shares the entire fish with 22.
At 12:54, 22 is so full that he has to lay down. He still eats a few more bites, settles on the rails nest to 21, and then turns back to see what Dad left when he flew off. Looks like a bit of a tail.
M15 flies up to the branch at 12:58:20 after he has no more takers for food. He left some fish. He must be hungry but – he left it for the eaglets. Incredible.
Whenever I see a nest where there is potential siblicide – and let us not forget that 21 had placed fear in 22 so that last Sunday each of us worried if 22 would make it – this is how you prevent it. Lots of prey deliveries. Lots of them. Get the dominant one full even if it is fur from roadkill and some fish and fill up the non-dominant chick.
M15 is in charge of what is going on in this nest. He is taking advantage of everything he can find to feed these eaglets. Personally he is doing better than many nests with two adults. We should all give him a big round of applause. M15 really is Super Dad.
Thank you for being here with me. You will hear from me again tomorrow but, for now celebrate the great things that are happening on this nest. You might well never see anything like this again in your lifetime! Be joyful.
Thank you to SWFlorida Eagles and D Pritchett for their streaming cam where I took my screen captures.
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M15 continued to bring in food. He wasn’t finished at lunchtime! There were a couple more fish brought in during the afternoon, and at one stage, after feeding the first part of a whole fish to E21, M15 left him to practise his self-feeding technique on the unzipped fish and went over to E22. He picked up a decent chunk of nestover fish from earlier in the day and fed it to E22 until E22 could fit no more. Then he coaxed E22 to eat another few bites anyway! The crop was massive – yet again. These two have spent the last three days so full they have been waddling rather than walking.
M15 has turned this nest around with constant food deliveries and patient, clever feedings. He is magnificent. In the midst of his grief and confusion, he has put everything else aside to care for his babies. Both eaglets are full as ticks and they are nearly back to their previous friendly relationship. Today, the two lay on the rails together, shared some beakie kisses, allopreened once or twice and played with the nesting material. They did healthy PSs and they ate themselves into food comas. It was an absolute joy to watch.
It may be a bit early, given that we are only in early February, but I would like to put in an early nomination for M15 as Father of the Year.
He is certainly the hero of the hour!