Is anyone else tired of what seems like the eleventy-billionth winter storm this season? Decorah and Decorah North were hit with snow, rain, and sleet today: a dreaded mix that can be tough on wildlife adapted to January’s usual snow and subzero temperatures. Despite the frightful weather, HD and HM stayed busy with nestorations, a shared lunch, and some preening. The days are already five minutes longer than they were on the solstice and we’ve seen behavior that indicates both eagles are interested in getting frisky. We expect to see a successful bonding pretty soon, especially given all the nestorations and food gifts!
January 3, 2023: HD arrives with prey, HM comes in to check it out, he shares! https://youtu.be/YbUZMqy8b-Y. This is the full version of the short clip above. HD arrives on the nest with a furry UFO, aka Unidentified Food Object. HM comes in and expresses an interest in lunch. Instead of mantling and defending it, he backs up, nibbles a bit, and appears to indicate he is open to sharing. She gives a few soft pleas, moves in, and takes part of his lunch without any struggling, mantling, or beaking. The two eat peaceably side by side.
What’s going on? HD had a pretty full crop, but there was more to it than that! Copulation is one of the last steps in a pair bond. Prior to that, both eagles work on the nest and the male shares food with his prospective mate – sometimes willingly, as we see here, and sometimes a little less willingly, although he won’t aggressively defend his meal. In general, pre-copulatory bonding behavior is centered around nest-building and teamwork, including the male’s ability to provide and share meals. Food is the fastest way to an eagle’s heart and a male who can’t provide meals for his mate probably won’t be able to provide meals for his young. We were happy to see the two of them sharing lunch!
January 4, 2023: HM and HD in snow.
January 2, 2023: Watch out, HD! HM brings a long stick – https://youtu.be/Uz1OKYSeSNY. HM flies in with a long stick at 29 seconds and classic stick-tivities begin! She loses her prize to a very determined HD, although she tries to get it back. Sorry, HM – HD has (building) plans! A place for every stick and every stick in its place!