NestFlix and News: Decorah, Decorah North, and the Mississippi Flyway

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New Decorah Eagles HD and HM have been occasionally working on N1 since at least April, although nestorations have really accelerated since the beginning of October. Their early start has caused some followers to wonder if they could be from the southern United States.

April 4, 2022: Early morning nestorations at N1.

April 4, 2022: Early morning nestorations at N1.

Bald eagles in the southeastern US lay eggs much earlier than their counterparts elsewhere, as we wrote about here: But their nest building and replenishment schedule (‘Honey, it’s time to go to Nest Depot!‘) doesn’t start that much earlier than bald eagles in other parts of the United States. I have to wonder if bald eagles in wintery climates need to spend more time preparing their nests for incubation and brooding. Bald eagles in Iowa and Florida face very different weather challenges!

Whatever the motivation, nest building is an important part of bald eagle life and many eagle couples, regardless of location, work on building and replenishing nests eight to nine months out of the year. We don’t believe these eagles migrated from the SE United States because:

  • They arrived between mid-March and early April, which doesn’t fit SE bald eagle migration.
  • Breeding adults below the 40th parallel don’t usually migrate (Birds of The World)
  • Bald eagles are generally philopatric; that is, they tend to breed within or close to the region they fledged from. The SE United States is a long way from Iowa and the two regions have very different weather and habitats.

We know that nest building is an important part of eagle courtship, but it remains to be seen whether this year’s schedule is the equivalent of a honeymoon or just how this pair behaves. We’re so excited to watch and compare two unique pairs of eagles in Decorah once again!

Before we dive into our videos, I’m looking for your fan art, local or regional conservation organizations that you want everyone to know about, or any conservation-related articles that might fit our odds and ends section. Give me an email at [email protected] if you have something to share. Thanks so much for watching, sharing, learning, and especially for caring! 🦅

Decorah North Eagles
October 12, 2022: DNF (left) and Mr. North (right).

October 12, 2022: DNF (left) and Mr. North (right).

October 12, 2022: Mr. North eating breakfish Go to 43 seconds in the video and you’ll see Mr. North eating breakfish by the stream, his brown and white plumage resplendent against the muted red, yellow, brown, and green colors of fall. Clanking farm equipment and small birds briefly distract him, but he’s hungry, breakfish is at hand, and farm equipment, chickadees, and white-breasted nuthatches don’t pose a threat to Mr. North or his fish. The video closes with Mr. North perched in an oak tree as a chilly fall rain patters around him.

October 13, 2022: DNF and Mr. North. They are most likely to come to the nest in the wee hours of the day. Watch early or catch up with our videos!

October 13, 2022: DNF and Mr. North. They are most likely to come to the nest in the wee hours of the day. Watch early or catch up with our videos!

October 11, 2022: Owl and DNF DNF is peacefully slumbering on a branch. At six seconds into the video, she wakes up and rouses before appearing to close her eyes once more. At 27 seconds, she starts to show signs of alarm and at 30 seconds, she begins vocalizing. An owl streaks in from the right side of the video (look for its eyeshine) and lands in the branch above her. She chases it away and begins vocalizing. Mr. North answers his mate from the darkness and her vocalizations slow. At 1:49, the owl flies in from the left side, turns around, makes a pass just below her, and exits the same way it came. DNF has had enough of this! Although eagles don’t commonly fly at night, she leaves her perch for an owl-less location. Listen for a brief owl vocalization at 1:54.

What kind of owl was this? Iowa has eight breeding owls and one winter visitor: the Barn Owl (a state endangered species), the Eastern Screech-owl, the Great Horned Owl, the Barred Owl, the Long-eared Owl (a state threatened species), the Short-eared owl (a state endangered species), the Northern Saw-whet Owl, and the Snowy Owl (a winter visitor). We’ve seen and heard barred owls, screech owls, and great horned owls around both Decorah nests, but the owl’s size, maneuverability, and vocalization makes me think it was an Eastern Screech Owl. Maybe Karla Bloem from the International Owl Center can identify it for us! If you’d like to learn more about owls we’ve seen around our nests, follow this link!

Decorah Eagles
October 13, 2022: HM glorious against a grey morning sky.

October 13, 2022: HM glorious against a grey morning sky.

October 12, 2022 [5:10AM]: HM to the nest, wingflaps at something It’s almost two hours before sunrise, but HM swoops into her nest and wingflaps at something. What is she responding to? A raccoon visited on October 10th ( and briefly poked around the nest before it left. HM’s downwardly-focused pre-dawn response suggests a nocturnal climbing animal, so we’re guessing it was a raccoon yet again. Whatever it was, it didn’t try to enter the nest once she wingflapped her displeasure! Nest secured, she hops over to find a comfortable perch.

Why do eagles perch instead of sleeping in the nest? In general, many species of birds reflexively curl their toes when they bend their knees and ankles, which makes flat-footed sleeping uncomfortable to impossible. Raptors also have a special ‘ratchet’ in their feet that makes holding tight easier than letting go. You can read more about that here:

October 13, 2022: Magnificent HD waits to fish the hatchery pond.

October 13, 2022: Magnificent HD waits to fish the hatchery pond.

October 11, 2022: HM & HD at the nest, getting beaky, nestorations, perching for the night I liked the video, but I especially enjoyed HD greeting HM with gentle pecks when she flies into the nest at 1:50. She responds to him by lifting her head and getting tall, but she doesn’t protest. He gives her a few more pecks at 3:07 and flies out. She lays down and works on the nest bowl, churning her feet and moving soft materials and sticks to get things just right. I love watching their courtship deepen!

Mississippi Flyway

October 10, 2022: Mississippi Flyway Migration What a beautiful flight! Waterfowl migration is heating up on the Upper Mississippi River. Canada Geese, American White Pelicans, and countless ducks are stopping along the sandbars and braided channels of Lake Onalaska to tank up for the next leg of their journey.

Odds and Ends

US Law protecting endangered species hampered by poor resources: This article isn’t cheerful, but it points a way forward and suggests remedies. It’s worth a read and I’ll be following up with action suggestions next week.

Podcast: Kinship with the More Than Human World I think a lot of you feel a deep kinship with the birds we watch. I also think you might enjoy this podcast!

StoryCorps: How his family farm helped this birder learn to fly I love stories and this one evokes the power and wonderful entanglement between self, nature, and childhood dreaming. I really enjoyed it.

Fat Bear Week Emerges From Scandal To Crown a New Champion Oooooo…spill the Fat Bear tea, NPR! If you aren’t already watching, visit our partner before the bears disperse: