We’ve got your Monday night NestFlix! A lot of you are curious about whether HD and HM are first-time egg-layers and parents. While we don’t know for sure, I thought I’d look back at 2019 for some clues. As long-time watchers will remember, Mom accepted a new mate (DM2) after Dad disappeared, and Mr. North did the same (DNF) after Mrs. North disappeared. While Mom and DM2 had some trouble getting things to click, Mr. North and DNF got their groove on right away. We observed 13 mating attempts and 21 copulations at the Decorah nest and an unbelievable 52 copulations at the North nest!
December 7, 2022: Eagle ‘flirting’ often includes gentle pecks, nibbles, and beak kisses.
What is 2023 looking like? So far, we’ve seen copulation at Decorah North and a failed bonding attempt in Decorah on October 27. HD was interested, but HM was not (https://youtu.be/YtlobGkgQWA and go to about 12:25). Since copulation alone won’t tell us much about the pair’s familiarity with one other, we’ll also be looking at behaviors like egg-laying (do we have a lot of false alarms?), incubation, brooding, and feeding. If you’d like to read over Sherri Elliott’s review of 2019, follow this link: https://www.raptorresource.org/2019/12/31/whatta-year-a-tale-of-two-nests/. If you aren’t familiar with eagle copulation, read this blog: https://www.raptorresource.org/2020/02/06/courtship-copulation-and-other-things-romantic/.
Thanks so much for watching with us!
December 11, 2022: Don’t get in HM’s way! That stick is not going to place itself.
December 11, 2022: HD brings HM a cornstalk flower – https://youtu.be/Zq7RoCNTXUg. Go to 3:40 to see HD’s lovely gift!
December 10, 2022: Morning stretch, to the nest, HM beaky – https://youtu.be/7MbDyIkNwDY. Look for some eagle yoga beginning at 19 seconds! HD flies down to the Y branch and hop flaps into the nest at 1:15, quickly followed by HM. The two work on snow removal and HM gets a little beaky, gently nibbling and pecking at HD – although she takes a few more serious snaps when he tries to join her nest-digging project. The two become very alert as something large passes by – perhaps a snowplow, based on the sound – but quickly return to nestorations after discerning it is not a threat.
Female bald eagles are formidable and even amorous males sometimes seem reluctant to approach their mates. Look for pecking, footing, body brushing, and displaying as eagle couples signal their growing interest in bonding.
December 11, 2022: Turkeys in the field – https://youtu.be/7dX6qsJG_AM. A flock of turkeys is foraging in a nearby cornfield. One of them begins displaying at 2:07.
What’s going on here? If you look closely, you’ll see that all of the turkeys have ‘beards’ – plumes of dark brown or black feathers that protrude from their chests. This means that they are most likely all male turkeys.
Male turkeys spend the winter in all-male flocks. These large flocks usually break into small alliances of two to four gobblers in the spring. The dominant male will do all of the copulating, but his ‘apprentices‘ will help him attract hens and fight off extra-group competitors. Spring is still several months away, but the males are already jockeying for position on the pecking order!
Decorah North Eagles
December 8, 2022: DNF at the North Nest.
December 11, 2022: One takes a bath, than two – https://youtu.be/9xOv6NSBa1Q. A lovely view of a chilly bath across the field. The weather is cold, but an eagle’s feathers need to be in tip-top shape! Regular bathing removes dust, loose feathers, ectoparasites, prey remains, and other debris from an eagle’s plumage. While we haven’t seen them bathe in subzero weather, they’ll happily take a polar plunge in on relatively balmy days like this one! (37F)
December 10, 2022: It’s time for snow removal! The snow makes it really easy to see this year’s nestoration progress. The eaglets are going to have a nice porch to perch on!
December 9, 2022: First Copulation of the season seen on the cams: https://youtu.be/I525Qzfvy58. I feel a little weird and judgy saying this, but that was a long copulation for a bald eagle! Eagle copulations tend to take 6 to 8 seconds. This one took 12 seconds! It looks like Mr. North and DNF still have their groove on.
I took a look at the copulation vocals. Mr. North begins with a chatter call. The first vocal has six parts: five relatively high notes followed by a sixth lower note. The second has seven parts – four higher, louder chirps and three softer chirps. DNF responds with a ‘copulation call’ – a high-pitched note, repeated several times, that signals she is ready for copulation. Although it shares some tonal elements, her copulation call is distinct from her alarm call and the short chirps we heard HM give last week. Note that HM did not give a copulation call during HD’s bonding attempt on October 27, and that copulation failed.
December 8, 2022: The same hawk from behind. We can see its cream and brown tail and scalpular V. Red-tailed Hawks come in an amazing variety of colors and patterns. I'm going to talk to master bander Dave Kester - the vivid dark and light feathers on this hawk most resemble a Harlan's light morph RTH, but I do not have enough experience to say for sure. December 8, 2022: An extremely-cool looking subadult Red-tailed Hawk near the North nest. See its dark belly band? That is an excellent field ID mark.