What’s Going on at the North Nest?

February 24, 2023: DNF and Mr. North back on the North nest.

February 24, 2023: DNF and Mr. North back on the North nest

North nest watchers know that 2023 is off to a very unusual start.

  • DNF has laid her first egg on February 16th for two years in a row and her average first lay date, excluding her first year, is February 17. We were surprised when she didn’t lay her first egg until February 20th, especially after her extended stay in the nest on the night of February 14.
  • Male and female eagles both incubate eggs, but female eagles almost always incubate at night and usually do more incubating overall. It was very surprising to see Mr. North incubating two nights in a row and doing the lion’s share of incubation during the day.
  • Female eagles usually lay egg #2 three days after egg #1, so we were surprised when DNF didn’t lay an egg on February 23rd.
  • Incubation was very sporadic on February 24.  The Norths left their egg alone from 1:46 to 3:39 PM and 4:04 to 5:45 PM. We know that they were in the valley, but they weren’t sitting on their egg.
What’s going on?

So what’s going on? The eagle population is very large and warm weather has some birds traveling north early this year. Breeding adults usually head straight for their nesting grounds, but non-breeding adults hang back, wander around, and check out nesting opportunities. Eagles attract eagles, the North nest is prime real estate, and the snow/ice line has a whole lot of birds parked at the 43rd parallel, waiting to move north.

Mr. North and DNF have been dealing with intruders for at least a week. Instead of perching near the nest, packing in food, and developing the reserves she needs to lay eggs, DNF is guarding her nest, egg, and mate from potential rivals. Male eagles don’t tend to fight larger female eagles, which means that DNF is on guard duty while Mr. North tends the home fires. As one of the DNN mods put it, intruders are stressful and can throw everything off tilt. We know that humans can be stressful, which is why there are laws governing how close we can approach an active nest. The same is true of intruding eagles, minus the laws.

John pointed out that we’ve seen eagles leave eggs uncovered before. The embryo has just started developing and can be put in the fridge – aka left alone – for long periods of time. I’m encouraged to see DNF incubating tonight and hopeful that her egg will still hatch.

We’re not sure why DNF hasn’t laid a second egg yet. Brett Mandernack mentioned that her cycle could have been disturbed by the intruders. If she still has another egg in the pipeline – and she could! – suspending incubation would result in eaglets hatching at a similar state of development even if the eggs were laid several days apart. I’m putting myself in the no worry zone and looking forward to tomorrow! 

We’re still running our first egg fundraiser. If you’d like to donate, follow this link: https://www.raptorresource.org/support-the-raptor-resource-project/make-a-donation/.