Fun with Bonnie and Clyde

Great Horned Owls (GHOW) are found all across North America – literally, they exist everywhere from the hot swampy areas of Florida to the deserts of the Southwest to the prairies and mountains of Canada. There is currently no concern for them in terms of declining populations. Just because there is no decline does not mean that the owls should not be monitored. Monitoring means that researchers can see when a decline does happen and they can ask why.

The setting sun on Bonnie.

In the 1970s many bird populations were wiped out due to the use of DDT. DDT was a pesticide and it was banned in 1972 after Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring in 1962 exposing the issues. It took a decade for change to happen but it did happen.

So the question then is, why in 2014 were birds dying in Michigan with levels of DDT poison so high in their brains that no one could believe the readings? Songbirds such as Robins, European Starlings, and bluebirds were dropping dead in people’s yards. DDT was not only found in the brains of the dead birds in enormous concentrations but it was also found in the worms that the birds ate. A professor at the University of Michigan looking into the phenomena found that the concentrations ranged from 155 to 1043 parts per million with the average being 552. The threshold for death is 30 parts per million. DDT persists in the soil and in the rivers. It thins the eggs of birds so that they break and cannot be incubated. It makes the birds sick and it is not a quick death but a slow painful one. The authorities in Michigan found that the Velsicol Chemical Corporation was responsible. Under their old name, Michigan Chemical, they manufactured pesticides. It is the area around their old plant where the soil, in 2014, was still saturated with the poison.

Today, the raptors – not the seed eating birds – have issues with various types of designer poisons for mice and rats. They are commonly called Rodenticides. In the United States, the name of one of the biggest companies manufacturing this poison is deConn. And, like when we want a tissue for a runny nose, many will ask for a ‘Kleenex’. Owls eat a lot of mice and rats. In fact, they are the absolute best and cheapest way to rid an area of these rodents. Someone could start a company, ‘Hire an Owl’.

And speaking of owls and mice, I have some great shots of Bonnie and Clyde for you tonight. And I have the answer to two questions sent to me by e-mail. I will incorporate those in the text. Thank you to those who wrote and asked – always happy to answer if I can or to help find the answer.

First of all, owls are noctural but like all other raptors they actually do a lot of hunting right at dusk and dawn. Owls do not see colour very well because nature provided them with sensitive dark-light rod cells instead of ones for differentiating colour. During the day, Clyde will sleep just like Bonnie, if she can. Clyde will not bring food to Bonnie during the bright light of day. But you might expect him to come, if prey is plentiful, right after dusk. Let us hope that none of the mice or rats that Clyde brings Bonnie have eaten any pesticides.

Dusk was at 6:39 pm in Newton, Kansas where the Bald Eagle Nest that Bonnie and Clyde are using is located. Between 6:55 and 8:04 pm, Bonnie made three trips off the nest. The first was at 6:55. She raises her head. Did she hear Clyde? She leaves the nest and returns at 7:03. That was eight minutes. She might have needed a bathroom break and she might have had something to eat.

At 7:21, we can see Clyde’s eyes. Clyde lands on a branch. Bonnie hears him.

Bonnie gets up. Clyde has brought her a mouse!

They do a quick exchange.

And Bonnie is back on the nest. It took a whole two minutes.

Bonnie takes another very short break from 7:57 to 8:04. Just like the first time she left this evening, the camera is fixed on the next so we cannot see what happens outside the frame. The temperature has really warmed up from the frigid minus degrees. It is 29 degrees F. The hunting might be a lot better because the mice will not be hunkered down with the cold. They will also be out looking for food while Clyde is looking for them!

Those beautiful big owl eyes are the reason that Clyde will be his busiest hunting within two hours of dusk and two hours of dawn. It is quite possible then that all three of Bonnie’s departures after dusk had to do with food deliveries and bathroom breaks together.

It is dawn, 6:27 am at the nest and Clyde has brought in his last mouse for the night. He arrives on his ‘regular’ branch. You should be able to see the mouse hanging out of his beak.

The pair have this all worked out. Bonnie and Clyde do some hoots and she flies up to the upper branch on the left.

Bonnie then flies up to grab the mouse from Clyde and within a blink that mouse becomes owl and she is back on her nest in two minutes. This couple is extremely efficient!

Besides hunting, Clyde’s other duty is to protect the territory of the nest and Bonnie. He will not be far away!

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Just a couple of quick observations for today and then something special at the end.

The little eaglets on the Southwest Florida nest at Fort Myers, E17 and E18 are itchy. E18 was preening 17 and then they both wake up in the night and start preening. You will see that their flight feathers are just starting to come in. (Note: The dark object is a piece of an armoured fish). Here are a few images of these two itchy characters:

E17 is preening E18
Flight and pin feathers make eagles itchy.

Over at the other eagle nest in NE Florida at St Augustine, little NE24 is getting its pin feathers, too. Sometimes these are called ‘blood’ feathers because they are filled with blood while they are growing. Some of you might remember that Hope, the oldest eaglet on Connie and Joe’s nest at Captiva, Florida died because she broke a blood feather and bled out. That was because of the rodenticide in the prey she had been fed. So blood feathers. Our new words for the day!

I am absolutely in love with this little eaglet. Maybe because it is all alone on that big nest without any siblings. But, at the same time, that is such a plus. There is no anxiety watching this nest. Gabby and Samson do a fine job taking care of this little one. And its eyes cleared up all on its own.

The soft glow of dusk is filtering through the trees in the swamp. NE24 has a nice crop before bed. You can see that the feathers are changing colour from white to grey. You can also see the pin feathers just starting to come in. Poor thing. It will not only have to deal with all those mosquitoes but now these things coming in!

Now for something just a little special. Most Bald Eagles do not start breeding until they are much older than five years even though they can at four to five years. In a nest in Minnesota supervised by the Department of Natural Resources, a four year old Bald Eagle male (called a sub adult) is going to get to see his first egg for the very first time. His beak is still a brown or amber colour instead of the bright yellow and he still retains some of the brown feathers mixed with the white on his head. It is thirteen minutes long – and no, he is not dirty. He is just a youngster. His eyes have not gotten light yet either. Enjoy!

Thank you again for joining with me to learn about the birds we all love so much. It is my pleasure to share them with you. Tomorrow we best check in on some Royal Albatross and what their satellite trackers are showing and we will also try and find Solly ——- and, of course, see what Bonnie and Clyde are up to. The weather patterns are shifting again and I am sad to say that the Bald Eagle Nest in New Jersey is once again covered with snow. This mom with three eggs under her never seems to catch a break.

Thank you to the streaming cams of Derek the Farmer, Duke Farms, SWFL Eagle Cam and D Pritchett Real Estate, NEFL Eagle Cam, and to Lady Hawk for making that great video of our young eagle dad.

What a fantastic day

Today a woman who answers all manner of questions about The Love Trio, Starr and the two Valors whose nest is on the Mississippi River near Fulton, Illinois, answered a question for a member of the FB group. The question was: Do all of the eagles take turns incubating the eggs? Joan Dice’s response was simply priceless and I want to share some of it with you. I know you will have a smile on your face. I wish that all of the Bald Eagle nests had such attentive parents like these three!

She said: “Definitely all 3! So it is a struggle getting time. Starr broods during the night. V1 does all he can to get a lot of the day. He will let someone brood, but come back a few minutes later with a stick to be annoying. In fact it is a full circle on who can get one up the easiest. Starr can get V2 up by giving him kisses, which he doesn’t like, so usually quickly gets up. V1 can get Starr up easier than V2 can just by being annoying…walking all over her by placing a stick & hitting her with it, putting his rear end right in her face, or standing next to her, pushing on her side with his leg or body. It is very subtle, but you can tell by Starr’s reactions what he is doing. And V2 can get V1 up more easily than Starr can. He either stands there & waits (more patient than Starr) until V1 gives in. Or V2 will lay next to V1 a little while, then start shoving him off the nest bowl with his body by scooting over. Starr’s kisses are mostly ineffective on V1, but there are times he senses he better turn over duty to her. And V1 does the stick tricks to V2, also. He has even brought fishes to the nest to bribe V2 off the eggs. And that is why we call him the Brooding King”.

The image below was taken at 2:30pm 17 February 2021. One is incubating the eggs (or maybe laying another egg if it is Starr) and another is towards the left protecting the nest. You can see the bright yellow beak if you squint at the nest to the left front. This is when you want eyes like a hawk!

17 February. @2021 Stewards UMRR
17 February 2021 3:40 pm. @2021 Stewards UMRR

Normally eggs are three days apart. Starr laid her first egg on Valentine’s Day for the boys. Wonder if we will get another one today?

Usually there are only two eggs. There are sometimes three but this is rare and you really hope that there is a lot of food and a good feeding strategy and no problems between siblings if there are three. The incubation period for Bald Eagle clutches is 35 days. The eggs are rolled on average every two hours. You will notice the Bald Eagles rising up slightly and using their beak to do this. The Red Tail Hawks do it this way and that GHO has the cutest egg roll. She hoots to the eggs while using her feet and doing a little shimmy over the eggs. Indeed, most parents talk to their eggs so that the hatchlings recognize their voice. And rolling the eggs is not just so the parent can move around a bit. The purpose is to make absolutely certain that the yolk does not stick to the shell. If it did it would kill the chick that is growing inside.

All is well with Bonnie. She has been regularly rolling her eggs. Oh, the weather has certainly improved for this devoted mom. It is +26 with a little snow. That is thirty-three degrees warmer than it was two days ago. Clyde should have good hunting tonight.

And while so many are incubating eggs, M15 sits on the rim of the nest at SWFL in Fort Myers with two big babies, E17 and E18, below. They are 25 days old today. Harriet and M15 are super parents.

And despite 17 being a bully on several occasions today, E18 got a good feeding at 4:20. In fact, he had a nice big crop. It is hot in Fort Myers, 28 degrees C. The eaglets get their water from the moisture in the food. It is important that they get fed.

E18 has a nice crop full of fresh fish.

Over in St Augustine it is much, much cooler with grey skies and rain. Gabby is making sure that NE24 stays dry and is fed.

Parents are rolling the eggs and changing shifts over at the eagle nest at Duke Farms in Hillsborough, NJ. How grand is it to see no snow on that nest? These two have it slow right now. There are three eggs there! Three. I can’t even imagine what that will be like to keep law and order and get all of them fed. And that is where those eaglets being raised by The Trio are so very, very lucky. Each one could feed an eaglet if there were three and avoid all manner of sibling rivalry. When you have two parents and one needs to hunt and also protect, it can get tough.

Solly is on the move again. She is 150 days old today and there are said to be a lot of fish at Perlube. She has gone a distance of six kilometres from Eba Anchorage where she was the other day. She is still heading north.

Now, this really is what all the excitement is about today at my house. Remember this fellow? He came in with an old beak injury and a healed broken leg (on its own so not perfect). Those injuries happened in the fall, perhaps October or late September. But he was grounded, starving, and on the verge of dying. And someone had the vision to get him to A Place Called Hope. His lead levels were 49. And the top image below is what he looked like.

This old Warrior would not give up so the wildlife rehabbers and the vets did not give up on him. He is eating well and look at this today! I mean this is the kind of news in the ‘Bird World’ that causes you stand on the top of a building and shout. A miracle. No doubt about it. The Chelation Therapy worked.

Now look at that reading………..wow. 12.5. You can tell just by looking at him that he is feeling so much better. Thank you to all those people who believed in him – and spread the word. A reading of 49 does not mean a death sentence to a Bald Eagle if you have ‘Hope’.

And down in New Zealand, this chick is causing so many problems. Not because he is sick or underweight – oh, no. It is because he is so big! Yesterday at weigh in, he was 1.9 kilos. He is so big that is getting extremely difficult for him to fit under his dad, LGK (Lime Green Black) who is now on nest duties. What a problem to have! Great food, great parenting. Again, if every nest could be so lucky.

Lime-Green-Black looks down with those same gentle loving eyes at his little son who is becoming fluffier by the day. Soon this little chick will be left all alone on its nest. Each parent will be out at sea foraging and returning to feed it and then leaving. Always pulls at my heart to see them sitting there waiting for a parent to return.

It takes both parents to keep up with feeding the growing chick. Last year OGK (Orange-Green-Black) was injured and was away for forty days. Something had happened to his leg.

As the sun lowers on the Canadian prairies, all of the birds in our update are doing great. What a nice relief.

I hope that all of you are well and warm and staying inside if you are in the middle of the next weather system moving around.

Thank you to the following streaming cams: Cornell Labs and NZ DOC; Duke Farms, Farmer Derek, SWFL and NEFL. Stewards of the Mississippi and to Port Lincoln Osprey for the tracking images for Solly and to A Place Called Hope for the images of the Warrior Eagle.