We’re counting down four days to our guesstimated hatch date at Decorah North, Canada geese are keeping us on the confusion couch in Decorah, and the Flyway is busy with new arrivals! We hope you enjoy these videos as much as we did. Talons crossed for hatch later this week!
Decorah North Eagles
March 21, 2022: Mr. North responds to something we can’t see. Birds are arriving by the thousands, giving Mr. North and DNF plenty to watch, track, and listen to.
March 20, 2022: DNF gets a headless fish for dinner – https://youtu.be/bAwNrF9v7R8. Mr. North flies in with breakfish as DNF wheedles and pleads, letting him know just how hungry she is! She takes the fish out from underneath him and quickly eats it. Watch at 4:16 to see her gobble down the tail!
Competition is an important part of eagle ‘society’, but eagles also need to surrender food to hungry mates and gaping little mouths. I don’t speak Eagle-ish myself, but mated eagles clearly have a verbal and physical language to communicate desires, needs, and intentions. When female eagles want food, they often wheedle or plea, move in quickly, and erect their feathers, making themselves look bigger and asserting their control. Male eagles who intend to share usually move away from their food gift. They often dip their heads or bow slightly, and they don’t mantle or vocalize back. The message is quite clear even to us human-types: “Here you go dear! Take it – I brought it for you!’.
March 21, 2022: DNF’s nictitating eyelid
March 20, 2022: DNF closeups, great tongue views – https://youtu.be/_72DhqXOuA0. It was a warm day and leaves aren’t out to provide shade yet. Since eagles don’t have sweat glands, they pant and sometimes sprawl to radiate heat. With two eggs tucked beneath her, DNF’s sprawling options are limited! This video includes some nice close-ups starting at 6:51, an incredible look at her tongue, mouth, and nictitating membrane beginning at 7:37, and a very cool look at the side of her eye at 8:45.
At first glance, bald eagle tongues look somewhat similar to ours. They are pinkish, relatively narrow, fit nicely between the sharp ridges of their beaks, and are flexible. They are short enough that eagles can’t easily bite their tongues, although they can stick them out. Unlike us, bald eagles have two barbs, or rear-directed papillae, to help lift and pull food items to the back of their long mouths: a relatively common feature in bird tongues. Her tongue stalk allows her to manipulate food – think of carefully maneuvering tiny morsels into a hatchling’s beak – and her translucent nictitating membrane allows her to moisten her eyes and remove irritants without completely obscuring her sight.
March 20, 2022: Frost on DNF, beautiful close-ups – https://youtu.be/c5fORDw-5zI. Frost spangles DNF’s feathers and melts into droplets where the sun shines on her lovely brown plumage! This is an excellent look at how effectively DNF’s feathers insulate her. Layers of adult down trap air next to her body, while outer covert feathers zip together to form an overcoat that keeps her warm and dry through the coldest weather.
March 21, 2022: A subadult eagle shares the snag with a male red-winged blackbird
March 21, 2022: Subadult and Red-winged Blackbird – https://youtu.be/UeQCUl-Czxc. The male red-winged blackbird that shows up 23 seconds seems to be sizing the sub-adult eagle up – not surprising for a species known to hit humans in defense of its nest! But the encounter stays peaceful. Listen for gulls and more red-winged blackbirds in the background!
March 18, 2022: Subadult caught a duck – everybirdy wants it – https://youtu.be/eaMcTcY9MXI. Watchers might find the footage at 1:12 disturbing, since the duck briefly escapes before the eagles hunt it down and one of them finally dispatches it. But the eagles themselves are fascinating! This large group includes juveniles, subadults, a full adult, and a young adult. The young adult has the duck at 1:41. Other eagles move in, but it keeps the duck until it flies out at 3:04, kicking the duck across the ice as it goes. The circling eagles quickly converge and a subadult gets it, but the young adult flies back in and takes it back.
The young adult wards off several steal attempts until a fully mature adult flies in at 4:48. It gets the duck but quickly loses it to a subadult who rushes it from behind, knocking it off balance and stealing the duck out from underneath it. The subadult flies off with four eagles in hot pursuit – an excellent display of eagle table manners at their very finest!
March 21, 2022: Decorah has us all on the confusion couch this year! A Canada goose at N2B earlier today.
March 23, 2022: One Goose visits N2B at noon – https://youtu.be/gMtosftO900. The geese and Mom and DM2 are keeping us all guessing! We saw a goose earlier today, then two of them up on the bluff – a pretty common place for nesting Canada geese! – and another one back in the nest this evening. While we’ve seen a couple of chases, all of them have been wild goose chases so far. Even more perplexing: Mom Decorah does not yet appear to have laid an egg. We’ve been talking over possible reasons why, including disturbances at the nest, reclutching, and eagle menopause, but we don’t really have an answer yet. We hope to have more information later this week.