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Eagle Parenting Mistakes

There’s an interesting clip of the Decorah Bald Eagle nest live cam.  You get to see a minor parenting mistake made by the male eagle.  The female ends up fixing it, but night right away.  One thing that I find fascinating about the cam–well all the prey items, Monday one of the birds brought in a muskrat.  But you can also see that it takes the pair of eagles awhile to figure out how to solve the problem.  That hamster wheel in their brain doesn’t turn very fast.

The clip is about six minutes long, but I’ll show you some high lights with screen captures:

The male was noodling around in the nest.  He didn’t appear to be feeding the chicks, but picking out uneaten food morsels. The newly hatched chicks instinctively go to peck and beg when the adult’s head comes down.  This poor eaglet bit into the male eagle’s face, looks like right below the eye.

The male jerks his head back and flicks the chick off.

The male then kind of stares at the moved chick for a bit.  I think he realized that the chick is not supposed to be there, but doesn’t know how to move it back.  The chick, out on the edge of the nest where it’s cooler begins peeping.

Since the chick is peeping and the male doesn’t know what else to do, he feeds it.

Then he hunkers down and broods the chick and remaining egg in the nest cup (I don’t think that third egg is going to hatch). The moved chick looks rather indignant.  The chick is too small to do much movement on its own and it’s still fairly cool, if this chick doesn’t get moved back to the middle of the nest to be brooded by the adults, it could die of hypothermia.

The female returned and kind of pushed the male off, who made a hasty retreat. Perhaps he didn’t want to be around when the female realized one of the chicks had been moved?

The female soon hunkered down on the chick and egg in the nest cup and it took her a bit to suddenly notice the eaglet outside of it.  Even then, you could see her trying to work out in her head what was wrong and how to fix this.

It took 2 or 3 attempts for her to move the chick.  She has to be careful, her beak is meant to rip open animals for food, so she doesn’t want to accidentally injure the chick.  During the final attempt she was able to kind of roll the chick under her.  So, a happy ending…but it did take a long time.  One of the reasons eagles lay 2 or 3 eggs is that the goal is to get one of those to result in a young eagle leaving the nest.  There’s the first egg and the others laid after that are a back up plan–insurance in case something happens to the first hatched chick.  So many things can go wrong from not enough food, rough weather and well, parenting mistakes.

Also, something else I noticed in that clip is the bird watchers:

See the 2 vehicles?  You can even see someone behind the vehicle on the right.  Do they know this is the live cam nest or are they random bird watchers?

Here’s the YouTube video if you would like to watch the eagle parenting mistake:

YouTube Preview Image




8 comments to Eagle Parenting Mistakes

  • KPP

    I listened to your recent podcast that included the Decorah eagles and thought NBB’s comment about never making it to Iowa to see the eagles in person was funny. If you haven’t spotted Decorah on the map, its about 3 hours south of the Twin Cities. If you’ve been down to Rochester, you’re about half way there. Its quite pretty, its a corner of Iowa that wasn’t scraped flat by the glaciers way long ago. If you go for a canoe ride on the Upper Iowa, you might see a bald eagle (not sure if it would be these guys).

    And (I’m not affiliated, I just went to college in town), you could stop by for one of these shirts,

    Thanks for the screen shots, I’m glad Momma Eagle came home and puzzled out the conundrum.

  • We see far worse human parenting every day.

  • I’ve been watching the cam for days. It is really quite amazing how good both adults are at parenting. I love how they tuck their talons under their toes as they maneuver the nest so as not to poke anything delicate.

    I was watching today as papa made sure to feed both chicks and not just let the older chick get it all. Even if the third egg does hatch, the chick will be at severe disadvantage and probably at the mercy of the older ones.

    Fun to see what a larder the nest has become. They’re not just fish-eagles, but rabbit, crow, muskrat, and fish all get brought up to the nest. Quite fascinating. It must smell to high heaven up there ;)

  • Amazing story and video! The great things we miss in the natural world until someone puts a camera there to capture it all. We had Bald Eagles nesting in Louisville for the first time ever last year. The nest was abandoned but they are back again this year along with the Osprey.

  • I love this story! Thank you for watching what was going on so intently, and putting these pieces together. This webcam is entrancing.

  • John

    …okay, I’ll confess. I haven’t been watching the eagle nest cams. But after watching this video, it may be necessary. Why?

  • ragna

    I really like the grackle at about 1:37 – all “do de do de do … “

  • Gidds

    I was watching that little bit of drama as well. I found your podcast last week and I cannot tell you how much I enjoy it and this blog is wonderful too! Please let me know if you ever come down to the FL Panhandle for a birding trip.


    P.S. Yes, I know who the Brown Coats are. I bet other listeners do too :-p