After the Confusion Couch turned into a Tilt-A-Whirl this spring, a lot of followers asked for a Decorah Eagles recap. This blog lists our cottonwood cast of characters (the nests, the eagles, and the eaglets), recaps eagle history, and discusses names and naming. We hope this helps answer everybody’s questions about Mom, Dad, DM2, HD, HM, the nests, and the territories that surround them!
Nests at the Hatchery: N0, N1, N2, N2B
The nests are:
- N0, aka the bluff nest: Decorah Dad and his original mate built N0 in about 2002 on a hill behind the hatchery.
- N1: Decorah Dad and Decorah Mom built N1 in the fall of 2007. They nested at N1 from 2008 to 2012. Without constant eagle care and stick replenishment, the nest composted and eventually washed out of the tree. It was completely gone by the fall of 2021.
- N2: Decorah Dad and Decorah Mom built N2 in the fall of 2012. They nested at N2 until the tree cracked in half during a storm on July 18 of 2015.
- N2B: We built N2B in August of 2015. Mom and Dad moved in in early October.
- N3: After Dad disappeared in April of 2018, Mom accepted a new mate. She and DM2 nested at N2B in 2019 and 2020 but built a new nest behind the Decorah Walmart in the fall of 2020.
- N1 redux: We built a new nest in the old N1 spot in the fall of 2021. We hoped to entice Mom and DM2 back to the hatchery, but instead attracted a new pair of eagles.
- N4: N3 fell during a storm in July of 2022. Mom and DM2 built a new nest behind the Walmart, which we are calling N4.
The adult eagles are:
- OM (2002-2007): OM (original mate) was the first female eagle on this territory. She and Dad nested at N0 from 2002 to 2007.
- Dad (2002-2018): Dad was the first male eagle on this territory. He nested with OM at N0 and with Mom at N1, N2, and N2B.
- Mom (2007 to present): Mom was the second female eagle on this territory. She nested with Dad at N1, N2, and N2B and with DM2 (Decorah Male 2) at N2B and N3.
- DM2 (2019 to present): DM2 was the second male eagle on this territory. He nested with Mom at N2B and N3.
- HD (2022): HD (Hatchery Dad) is the third male eagle on this territory. He is currently working on the second iteration of N1 with HM.
- HM (2022): HM (Hatchery Mom) is the third female eagle on this territory. She is currently working on the second iteration of N1 with HD.
June 23, 2020: Left to right – D34, D35, and D36
The eaglets are:
- 2011: E1, E2, and E3. Parents: Mom and Dad. Nest: N1. We tracked E2 from 2011 to 2014, when her backpack quit working. She was rechristened D1 when we caught her.
- 2012: D12, D13, and D14. Parents: Mom and Dad. Nest: N1. We tracked D14 from August of 2012 to October 2012. She died of electrocution.
- 2013: D15, D16, and D17. Parents: Mom and Dad. Nest: N2.
- 2014: D18, D19, and D20. Parents: Mom and Dad. Nest: N2. D18 and D19 were electrocuted. D20 is alive and living at SOAR.
- 2015: D21, D22, and D23. Parents: Mom and Dad. Nest: N2.
- 2016: D24 and D25. Parents: Mom and Dad. Nest: N2B. We tracked D24 and D25. D25 was struck by a car and died. We are still tracking D24, although we don’t hear from his backpack very often.
- 2017: D26, D27, and D28. Parents: Mom and Dad. Nest: N2B. We are still tracking D27.
- 2018: D29, D30, and D31. Parents: Mom and Dad. Nest: N2B.
- 2019: D32 and D33. Parents: Mom and DM2. Nest: N2B.
- 2020: D34, D35, and D36. Parents: Mom and DM2. Nest: N2B. We tracked D35 and D36. D35 died of lead poisoning in January of 2021. We are still tracking D36.
- 2021: D37, D38, and D39. Parents: Mom and DM2. Nest: N3.
- 2022: No eaglets were produced on the Decorah Hatchery or Walmart territories. Canada geese produced five goslings in N2B. Four survived the jump from the nest.
Names can be hard!
We get a lot of questions about names and identifiers. Why do we identify nests, eagles, and eaglets the way we do? In 2011, moderators and fans named the hatchery eagles ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’, their nest ‘N1’, and the eaglets ‘E1, E2, and E3’. Very few people knew that N1 was the second nest, Mom was the second female, and E1, E2, and E3 were the ninth, tenth, and eleventh eaglets produced on the territory.
In 2012, we kept the names Mom and Dad and the nest designator N1, but changed the ‘E’ in the eaglet long count to ‘D’ (for Decorah) and corrected the long count number to include all of their eaglets. When the two built a new nest in 2012, we called it N2, even though it should have been called N3. Yes, it’s confusing, but N2 was actually the third nest built on the hatchery territory.
In 2015, we lost N2 in a storm and our founder Bob Anderson died. We built a new nest, which we called N2B. We probably should have called it N4, but we were still smarting from the sudden loss of Bob, who had been very excited about building a new nest, and the new nest was right next door to the old one. So we kept the name N2 and added a B for Bob.
In 2018, Dad disappeared. We couldn’t bear to call his replacement ‘Dad’, so we decided to move to a long count. The new male was christened DM2, for Decorah Male 2. So:
- We used N2 for N2B, but it was actually the fourth nest.
- Dad was the first male.
- Mom was the second female.
- DM2 was the second male.
DM2’s designation was simple, uncomplicated, and correct! Of course, this situation was too good to last. In the fall of 2020, Mom and DM2 built a new nest behind the Decorah Walmart. After some debate over N5 versus N3, we decided to call the new nest N3 and count it as part of the hatchery territory. 2021 was relatively uncomplicated, although we missed seeing Mom, DM2, and their eaglets. But we still had one eagle territory, three eaglets, a happy eagle couple, and a new nest – one we rebuilt! – at the old N1 spot. So:
- N3 was the fifth nest, not the third. But three comes after two and the last nest was N2B, so we called it N3.
- Mom and DM2 produced three eaglets at N3 in 2021: D37, D38, and D39.
- No eaglets were produced at any of the nests around the hatchery.
- Our N1 rebuild was the sixth nest, although we kept the name N1. Why start sticking to an accurate long count nest number now?
As followers know, nature threw a real monkey wrench in the works in the spring of 2022! A Canada goose couple adopted N2B and produced five goslings, and a new pair of eagles adopted our N1 rebuild. We saw at least four eagles at and around N1 in March. By early April, we were regularly seeing just one pair. The hatchery territory had divided. A new pair of eagles were were working on N1 and Mom and DM2 were nesting along the Upper Iowa river behind Walmart. So:
- N3 was actually the first nest on the Walmart territory, not the sixth nest on the hatchery territory. Which makes N1 the fifth nest, not the sixth nest. But we’re sticking with N1.
- Mom and DM2 were the second female and male eagles on the hatchery territory, but the first eagles on the Walmart territory.
- The two new eagles at the hatchery were the third male and female eagles to nest here. For the first time since eagles began nesting here in 2002, the territory was not productive.
What Do We Do Now?
This raised a lot of questions! Could we still refer to eagles at the hatchery as the ‘Decorah Eagles’ when the originals were nesting two miles away? Should we start referring to N1 as N5, to better reflect the nest count? Should N3 be renamed? Should we start calling Mom DF2, or maybe WF1? After some debate, we ended up keeping the existing names of our nests and eagles and attaching H for ‘hatchery’ to better define the eagles on the newish territory that encompasses the hatchery and its environs: thus HD (Hatchery Dad) and HM (Hatchery Mom).
Could this change again? It could! The subject of numbers has already come up. Do we call them HD3 and HM3? Should they really be HM3 (Hatchery Male 3) and HF3 (Hatchery Female 3)? Should we add a D for Decorah or a T for Trout? The hatchery was formally renamed from the Decorah Hatchery to the Chuck Gipp Decorah Fish Hatchery, but I’m pretty sure that no one is down for calling the new male CGDFHM3, because that’s a mouthful!
Whatever we end up doing, we’ll keep up our observations and a formal count. It’s been fascinating to watch the eagles and their territories change: we have so many more eagles and so many more years of watching than we did back in 2011. We’ve seen new mates, new parents, and new nests, built a few nests of our own, watched a territory split, and saw Canada geese take over an eagle’s nest. We have so much more to learn from our eagles and, whatever we call them, we hope you will be watching, sharing, learning, and caring as we move into a new beginning for the eagles of Decorah.