When will our eagles lay eggs? In general, bald eagles in the northern US begin laying eggs between mid-January and early March, although reclutching can drive a pair later. As egg-laying time draws near, we’ll be consulting our calendars and looking at eagle behavior to make our best guesstimates!
The North Nest: DNF and Mr. North
We have three years of data on DNF and Mr. North. Unsurprisingly, DNF began laying eggs earlier after her first two years, bumping her schedule up from February 21 to February 16. At this point, I’m marking February 14 through February 22 for my range of dates. DNF and Mr. North will increase copulation, DNF will appear ‘dumpier’ thanks to retained water and fat shifting to her brood patch (sound familiar?), and she’ll curtail her activity immediately prior to laying her first egg.
Why February 14 through February 22? DNF is still a young eagle and could move egg-laying a little earlier, although our eagles haven’t tended to advance after their third or fourth year. If the weather is very cold and dry, she could move a little later. Female eagles need to retain a lot of water to lay eggs and dry weather makes water retention more difficult. In 2014 – a notoriously bad winter – Mom laid her first egg six days later than the year before, although she returned to her regular laying pattern in 2015.
How about the Decorah Eagles? Based on every other nest we’ve watched in the Decorah area, egg-laying will most likely begin between February 14 and March 2. We’ll be looking for more copulation, dumpiness, curtailed activity, and some false alarms before HM lays her first egg. Has she laid eggs before? Maybe nest chronology and incubation/parenting behavior will give us some clues. If both eagles are first-time parents, 2023 could be a white-knuckle ride!
Xcel Energy Fort St. Vrain Eagles
The Fort St. Vrain eagles are usually our earliest layers, but they moved later after Ma accepted a new mate in 2021. They are quite busy in the nest and I’m very curious to see what egg-laying looks like this year, especially since Pa Jr. is now an experienced partner and mate. I don’t know know that she’ll move earlier, but he’s improved his food gift and bonding skills, so we’ll see! I’m marking my calendar for February 26 through March 3. We’ll be watching their behavior closely.
Thanks for watching, sharing, learning, and especially for caring! I hope you enjoy these videos as much as we did.
December 5, 2022: HD through tree branches
December 5, 2022: HD poops on HM – https://youtu.be/haoIuHIT1LM. #JustEagleThings. HM gets hit when HD evacuates in the tree above her and hits her on the right shoulder. Ah, the risks of eagle relationships – and perching below another bird!
December 1, 2022: HM in Decorah
December 4, 2022: Early morning stretching, nest testing – https://youtu.be/b7B9z6cmh4k. A lovely view of eagle domestic life! This video opens with pair vocalizations from HM and HD. Listen for the difference in pitch: HD is at left and HM is at right. At 1:11, HD flies out, making a cool turn past the camera before flying out. He comes into the nest at 1:24 (another cool fly-in!) and starts working on the nest. He moves soft grasses and husks, getting everything just right before his nest test at 6:00. It must have worked well, because he is still sitting at 8:36 when the camera switches to HM, who is still perched on her roosting branch. The rest of the video alternates between the two of them.
December 1, 2022: An adult male Red-bellied Woodpecker in Decorah!
We’ll be writing more about eagle vocalizations in the next couple of days. Birds in general are fascinating – that syrinx! – and we have a lot to learn about how they produce sounds and what role pitch plays in communication.
Decorah North Eagles
December 5, 2022: Beautiful DNF!
December 2, 2022: DNF flies out and harvests a stick for the nest – https://youtu.be/Riidcb1HrjI. DNF harvests a small wonky stick on the far side of a tree and brings it back to the nest, which is proceeding nicely!
December 5, 2022: DNF at the North nest. I love how it is taking shape. It looks warm and cozy!
December 2, 2022: Mr. North chases intruder – https://youtu.be/uBslispqI6I. Unsurprisingly, a busy day on the Flyway is also a busy day for the Norths along their smaller but still active Flyway. Mr. North reminds an intruder that this valley is his home!
December 2, 2022: Muskrat love? https://youtu.be/qhO3Q5GL94g. Mature female muskrats usually have two litters per year and annually give birth to 15 young, or seven to eight per litter. I don’t know that this was muskrat love, since muskrat give birth in the spring and summer and their gestation period is about 28 days. However, young remain with their mothers until the spring after their birth, so it could have been an inquisitive, hungry offspring. The two of them eventually swim off. Their competition over vegetation puts me in mind of eagles and stick tango!
December 1, 2022: Eagles through the trees at Great Spirit Bluff
December 4, 2022: Eagles hunting duck – https://youtu.be/RhrTpuOWKc4. This is a longer video, so watch the whole thing or fast forward through it. The video opens with one adult eagle hunting a diving duck. Its behavior quickly attracts other adults, subadult, and juvenile eagles. Although the eagles squabble a little bit, they almost appear to take turns at grabbing the duck, with one eagle trying at a time (and a brief eagle swim at 28:13). An eagle eventually plunges into the water to grab the duck at 28:32. Check 31:55 for eagles on ice and a juvenile mantling over the prize. Although it loses the duck to an adult at 34:55, it got some bites in – an A+ effort in eagle college!