Happy Fri-yay, everyone! Hoping for DNF or HM to lay eggs today? Watching for Peregrine falcons at Great Spirit Bluff or any of our Xcel Energy sites? We’ve got a raptor mega-roll movie matinee while you’re waiting! I loved all of these videos, but I especially enjoyed HD’s log cabin, HM on the Y-Branch (it looks like she’s developing a brood patch), Mr. North’s fishy gift, both Norths pondering a squirrel problem, and the fox walking below Newman. It is amazing!
We hope you enjoy these videos as much as we did – thanks so much to our camera operators and video makers for finding and sharing such special moments, and to all of you for watching, learning, and especially for caring!
Decorah North Eagles
February 16, 2023: How can a bald eagle have a bad hair day? DNF at the North nest.
February 15, 2023: Mr. goes fishing and DNF demands the catch – https://youtu.be/LwBMBLxzm9s. Mr. North plunges from a tree into the creek below, looking almost osprey-like as he plunges in at a steep angle to catch a fish. He enjoys a quick shore lunch before flying into the north nest where his hungry, gravid mate awaits him. She turns up the teakettle, not so much wheedling and pleaing as demanding he hand it over! He quickly acquiesces – he wouldn’t have brought it over otherwise – and she mantles over it before gulping it down.
February 14, 2023: Valentine’s Day nestorations!
February 12, 2023: Squirrel under the nest! https://youtu.be/eKKXmyDxP8Y. Mr. North and DNF aren’t happy about the squirrel under their nest! They move around as they look for ways to evict it, but the squirrel is protected by the nest’s large overhanging super-structure. Eventually the two appear to give up. Squirrels are just a fact of life when you live in an oak tree forest!
February 16, 2023: Last minute nursery touches: more sticks and plenty of husks!
February 12, 2023: Mr. North harvests a stick and flies it to the nest – https://youtu.be/Q4M4nsC3HXU. Some birds pick up nesting material from the ground, but eagles frequently harvest sticks from trees, using their weight and ratcheting talons to grip and snap sticks in flight. We’ve seen them prepare sticks by stripping bark from them prior to harvest, although we don’t know what their stick selection process looks like. Should sticks be dead? Straight? Wonky? Do the most commonly selected sticks obscure sightlines? However eagles choose their sticks, it is very cool to see!
February 17, 2023: HD and HM
February 16, 2023: Copulation, looking good – https://youtu.be/O8WFcNTt3qE. Eagle bonding is instinctive but, like many instinctive things, skilled bonding takes experience and learning. Male eagles differ in their responses to their mates – think of Mom and Dad versus Mom and DM2 – but even experienced male eagles often seem a little intimidated by their larger mates. We’re glad to see that HD is learning! #50shadesofprey
February 15, 2023: HD arrives, almost misses the landing – https://youtu.be/1Pl-1z_gAAQ. ‘I meant to do that!’ – HD. He also stashes a squirrel and works on the nest bowl. See the cornhusk berm? We’ve seen something similar in the North nest. Husks seem to act as a flexible ‘blanket’ that they adjust to control heat – pulling them up during cold, windy weather and throwing them down when things warm up!
February 13, 2023: HM on the Y-Branch
February 13, 2023: HM on the Y-Branch – https://youtu.be/UU6xoXaUlBY. Exactly what the title says. HM is beautiful in the glowing golden light! It looks like HM is developing a brood patch – a bare patch of skin that helps her transfer heat to her eggs. Female and male bald eagles both develop brood patches, but hers is larger than his. Look for her tell-tale egg triangle – she can incubate two eggs side by side – versus his egg line. More on the brood patch here: https://www.raptorresource.org/2023/01/24/what-is-a-brood-patch/.
February 13, 2023: Red-tailed Hawk having lunch – https://youtu.be/SBrxCqUJT_8. We don’t usually think of red-tailed hawks as carrion eaters, but Birds of the World tells us that they “Commonly feed on fresh carrion, including domestic livestock, road-killed ungulates, hares, rabbits, and prairie dogs, especially in winter.” The cold water helps keep meat fresh and carrion can’t run or fight back! The biggest risk? Larger raptors like Mom and HD!
As the hawk bends over to eat, take a look at the white ‘V’ formed by its shoulders – another great ID mark! Here are six questions to help you ID red-tailed hawks: https://www.audubon.org/magazine/fall-2016/six-quick-questions-help-you-identify-red-tailed and some tips on identifying birds in flight: https://www.raptorresource.org/2023/01/20/body-plans-and-shapes-identifying-birds-in-flight/.
Home improvement, eagle-style! Crib rails or windbreak? Probably a bit of both!
February 12, 2023: Is HD building a log cabin at Decorah? https://youtu.be/zoMFSDApl5U. The eaglets aren’t leaving until they are ready to fledge! HD carefully places some reclaimed timber, aka sticks, moving them around the nest to fit his mental blueprint, carefully interlacing them together, and chamfering the ends to remove unwanted bark and twigs. Bald eagles need supreme nestitect skills to build and maintain the largest nests in North America!
Why do bald eagles strip bark from the sticks they bring in? While a tree is growing, its bark provides a layer of protection against fungi and insects that can wound or destroy the wood beneath. But once a branch has been cut or snapped, bark traps moisture that quickly rots the wood beneath. Stripping bark also dries sticks out quickly after rain and snow, reducing and acute water-loading. This behavior is almost certainly instinctive, since eagles and eaglets do a lot of exploring with their mouths and clearly have sticks on the brain! But it is fascinating to think about how it evolved as part of eagle sexual selection: https://www.raptorresource.org/2022/12/13/birds-and-nest-building/.
Great Spirit Bluff
February 14, 2023: Newman and the fox.
February 14, 2023: Newman on a branch and a fox walks by below – https://youtu.be/J88IAiFYVFI. This is a really cool video! Newman looks beautiful and the fox is a wonderful sight to see.