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.

A Bald Eagle threesome, really?

Before I get to the main topic of today, I want to bring you an update on E17 and 18. You might have been wondering whether or not these little cutie pies would be leaving the clinic and going home to Harriet and M15 today. Sadly, it looks like the answer is no. It is no surprise that both of them are eating well. At today’s weight in and vet check, E17 was 445 grams and E18 was 340 grams. Oh, they sure are growing!

One thing that has happened is that E17 is showing aggression towards E18 during the feeding times yesterday, 3 February. This is about resources and is hardwired into raptors despite the presence of a full pantry from mom and dad. The staff of CROW can separate them but when they are returned to the nest the aggression will continue in the form of E17 bonking and E18 lowering its head in submission. This is natural behaviour. Do I like it? No. What I have observed is that the one being picked on gets really smart and sneaking in terms of getting its fair share. Old timers who have watched eagles for years tell me just to settle down, quit worrying, and ride it out. In the case of these two all will be well.

Harriet cannot separate them at the nest but CROW did. E17 is having a time out from bopping E18! Look at it having to sit in the corner.

Oh, gosh, these two are soooooooo cute.

Oh, gosh, they are just too cute for words. Image courtesy of CROW.

And here is the photo from this morning. They are changing colour right before our eyes. And their eyes are improving. No discharge at all. Some irritation in E17’s right eye and in both eyes of E18. My goodness from those poor crusted babes that looked like their eyes came out of a horror movie, they are looking like really beautiful strong eagles today,

They might miss that lady with that veil that has been feeding them all that yummy food. Wonder if Harriet and M15 supply quail?

4 February.

I am going to mention Laura Culley twice. Oh, I admire this woman and her wisdom about birds and, in particular, hawks and falcons. Indeed, I know much more about those smaller raptors than I do these big Bald Eagles. I know that a lot of us worry when we see the little ones bopping one another. It is funny for about a day or two and then we get afraid for the smaller one. This is what Laura tells me about worrying and I want to share it with you. “Worrying is creating an outcome in our minds that hasn’t happened yet. Soar above it all and look at the big picture.” That has helped me in other times, too, if I can remember it. Maybe it can help you, too, or someone you know.

Culley also explained to me the difference in the two terms, formel and tercel. When we talk about raptors, the formel refers to the female. The tercel is the male. ‘Tercel’ comes from the word third because it is believed that the third egg was always the male. In this instance, it is the second egg. In the case of our Bald Eagles as well as the hawks and raptors that I love, the female is the largest. This is called Reverse sex-size diamorphism. It seems that we are already seeing this in E17 and E18, perhaps.

And this whole thing about dominance and territory leads perfectly into this unusual story.

Starr with Valor I and II, February 2021. Image @2021 Stewards UMRR

How many adult Bald Eagles do you see sitting on branches of the same tree? If you said three, you are right. These three eagles have a nest in a tree on the Mississippi River near Fulton, Illinois. Just from reading about E17 and E18 we know that even eaglets fight for dominance and for food. And that is what makes this nest so special. There are two males and a female and, apparently, they are an Internet sensation.

It all began in 2012, nine years ago. Valor 1 (one of the males) was mated with a female named Hope. They had a nest along the Mississippi River. But Valor I was anything but a good dad and mate. He was completely irresponsible in taking care of the eaglets when it was his turn. Hope incubated the eggs almost entirely by herself. Valor 1 did not bring food to her nor did he appear to relieve her of her duties. He was a dead beat eagle dad. There is no other way to say it. Hope had to stay on the nest almost the entire time. But she had to get food and take breaks. Sometimes Valor 1 would incubate them but only for about ten minutes before he got bored and left. This is starting to sound like what happened to Daisy the Duck, right? The winter along the Mississippi was very cold and none of the rangers believed that the eggs would hatch. To the surprise of everyone, they did! Hope had to leave the little eaglets to get food for the three of them. Valor 1 did not help at all. Just like Daisy, Hope had to get off the nest to go to the bathroom and to get food for both her and her babies. Sadly, when they were four days old, while Hope was away both eaglets fell off the nest and died.

Next breeding season, in 2013, Hope wasn’t having anything to do with Valor I. A new male appeared despite Valor 1 hanging about the nest continually. Hope and her new mate fledged two eaglets in 2013 and 2014. Yeah for this great mom! Interestingly, in 2015, Hope mates with both males and that year, another two eaglets fledged. The following year, in 2016, Hope again mates with the two males who are now named Valor I and Valor II. All that is known is that three eggs hatched. The monitoring camera broke down and the rangers cannot say for sure what happened on the nest after hatch. But something magical happened that year. Valor I was seen helping with more of the nest building. He incubated the eggs and he helped provide food. In other words, he grew up! Maybe it was by watching what Valor II was doing?

The images below show the three Bald Eagles sharing nest renovation duties in November, 2017.

In 2017, the three assumed all duties equally. They replenished nest material, incubated the eggs, brought in food for one another, protected the nest, and fed and took care of the two eaglets that were born. On March 24, the nest was attacked by two intruders, both Bald Eagles. Hope fought them off as best she could but she was fatally injured. Her body was never found, Valor I and II protected the eaglets and remained unharmed. And, to the shock of all, Valor I and II took on shared ‘eaglehood’. They took turns keeping the eaglets warm and safe, they brought food and feed the little ones, and they guarded the nest. Indeed, they did all that and fought off continued attacks by the two intruders throughout April and into May. Both of the eaglets fledged on May 30. Isn’t that amazing? Oh, I wish Daisy had help like this.

In the image below, one of the Valors (on the right) is defending the nest from one of the intruders on 4 April. You can see the grey eaglets on the nest just behind the parent. Attacks like these continue for the entire month. Most believe that the two intruders wanted to take over the nest. Bit Valor I and II did not let that happen nor did they allow any harm to come to the little ones. What a team.

One of the two fathers fighting an intruder while brooding the eaglets. Image @2021 Stewards UMRR

That fall a young female appeared. In September, Rangers noticed that she was collecting material for the nest. She mated with both Valor I and II and the trio shared all responsibilities for the nest and the eaglets. Two eaglets hatched in 2018. One is known to have died when it was about a month old. The other one fledged early but was seen by the rangers in the area and it was doing just fine. The rangers named the female Starr.

The two images below show Star and both Valors working on the nest in November, 2017.

The three work on the nest together. Image @2021 Stewards UMRR
Valor I and II with Starr in the old nest. Image @2021 Stewards UMRR

In 2019, the three raised three healthy eaglets that fledged.

In 2020, two eggs were laid on 14 and 17 February. They hatched on 23 and 24 March fledging on 10 and 16 of June. Everything was wonderful until Derecho entirely destroyed the beautiful old nest in August. A derecho is a long straight line windstorm that can have speeds up to that of a hurricane. Everything was torn apart. But that did not phase the three Bald Eagles. They started to rebuild their nest across the Mississippi River from the ole one. The trio can only be seen from a distance until a new streaming camera can be installed.

In the image below, Starr is on one of the branches along with one of the Valors. It is 3 February 2020. This will be their third breeding season together. The other Valor is bringing in sticks to help continue to build the new nest. Note how shallow the nest is now. Each year they will add more and more twigs and branches and soon it will be as large as the old nest.

Valor I and II and Starr work on new nest in February 2021. Image @2021 Stewards UMRR

This week Starr has been observed mating with both of the Valors. The three appear to have a fantastic relationship that is nothing short of miraculous in terms of Bald Eagle behaviour.

Every duty that is associated with a Bald Eagle nest from nestorations, to catching food, incubating eggs, feeding nestlings, and teaching eaglets is now shared equally. The rangers have not observed any animosity. This is such a rare occurrence that many are baffled at why it has worked so well. What they do know is that having three to share the duties has ensured up to this season anyway, that every breeding season has fledged healthy juvenile Bald Eagles. It certainly underscores that old saying, ‘If we just work together, we can do anything’.

I will bring you updates on this nest as more news is available. For now, the threesome continues to mate and bring sticks to the new nest. E17 and E18 are gaining weight, eating well, and their eyes are improving. I was sure hoping they would be home Friday (the 5th) but now think it will be Saturday. Oh, gosh. Harriet and M15 will hear their little peeps and be so excited.

Take care everyone. Thank you so much for joining me today. Please stay safe and well.

Anxious moments….

The Pacific Black Duck, Daisy, left her nest at 14:41 to forage in the nearby Parramatta River. I watched her as she began to ready herself. She pulled more leaves and plant material to the nest and began quickly to push the down into the nest bowl. She carefully covered all up and departed from the right side of the Ironbark Tree, the exact spot that the White Bellied Sea Eagles land when they bring food to their eaglets.

It has been almost a half hour since Daisy left and I find that my pulse is racing. There are noises in the forests, alerts, vocalizing. Which are friend? and which are foe? It is a blistering hot afternoon in Sydney. Maybe Daisy knows that the other birds will be out hunting at dawn and dust and maybe quietly napping during the sweltering heat of midday. If so, that could certainly help protect her eggs while she is away. It is a shame that there is no defensive mode for the male partner to play so that the eggs are safe while she is away.

Daisy has been gone almost an hour. Most of the literature on ducks and their incubation says that they normally stay on the eggs twenty-three out of twenty-four hours. I find my heart racing faster every time I hear the call of a bird glancing up as nervous as Daisy is on the nest. I do wish she would return! Quite honestly if I could jump through the computer screen, I would go and sit on those eggs so that no one could harm them.

A falconer acquaintance, Laura Culley, says that we should not worry. She says it is assuming the outcome before it has even happened. And, of course, she is right.

Most duck nests actually do not survive. But I think that this one is special. Daisy arrived on the nest just about the time a friend of mine had an operation and received some ‘not so terrific’ news from her doctors. My friend does not want to die, she wants to live and the people that she has met and the fact that this duck is on this nest has energized her. Daisy just could be a life saver. I hope so. But for her to do that, she needs to be able to incubate these eggs and have her beautiful ducklings jump off the edge to start their lives. For now, just sharing the comings and goings, the suspense, and the hope of the nest with others is making my friend happy to wake up every morning. Bird cams have a way of doing that.

My anxiety. I wish it had been for naught. At 1600, WBSE landed on the nest. They carefully, looking all around them, walked over to the nest and began flinging the down. Then after what seemed like a life time but was only a minute, they jumped up to the parent branch and then went and stood guard on a the far end of a branch of the nest tree. It was quite nerve wracking. The WBSE has been acting erratic. He appears to be completely confused by the nest and the down. The fact that he has not returned to eat more eggs is hopeful. But he appears to be both curious and weary of whoever is using ‘his’ nest.

Dad the WBSE listens for any approaching bird.
Dad reaches down and puts his beak into the soft down.
Dad stops what he is doing to raise his head and check on noises from the forest.
Dad makes a mess of Daisy’s tidy nest walking away, for the second time, with a piece of down.
Dad at the far right of the image keeping watching over his nest.
Dad certainly can make a mess in a few seconds.

But thankfully, mess or not, Dad did not disturb the eggs!

Dad leaves just as quickly as he arrives. He made a mess of Daisy’s tidy nest but he did not disturb the eggs. He spent most of his time poking his beak into the down and then quickly raising his head to see if anything was approaching the nest. Indeed, when he was on the nest he was just about as anxious as I have been all day hoping that no predator would arrive while Daisy was away. And then poof! Dad is gone. What is he doing with the down and where does he go?

Daisy returns to the nest about twenty minutes after Dad the WBSE has departed. She is cautious. You can tell that he knows something has been there. She looks around and slowly makes her way to the nest where she begins to gather the plant material and the down that Dad had tossed about.

Daisy returns to her nest and immediately knows something has been there.
After about a minute, Daisy begins to incubate her eggs slowly bringing the plant material and down back close to her body that Dad has tossed about.

It is nearing 1700 Sydney time. It is unlikely that Daisy will leave again before night falls. The shade is falling over the old Ironbark Tree and Daisy’s camouflage offers her some security – let’s hope!

The shadows and Daisy’s excellent camouflage are good protection.