2023 Decorah Eagles Recap, Episode 2: Return of the Eaglets!

Continuing the story from episode one: https://www.raptorresource.org/2023/08/15/2023-decorah-eagles-recap-episode-1-a-new-beginning/.

Our eagle-eyed volunteers spotted a little starring on one of the eggs at around 6:53pm on April 3. We watched enthralled as DH1 – the first of HD and HM’s eaglets – made its way out of the egg to hatch at 4:10am on April 5. Unfortunately, it was the first chick of two inexperienced parents, and died sometime on the night of April 5 or early on April 6th.

What happened to DH1? While HD and HM instinctively brooded and attempted to feed their hatchling, they didn’t know how to go about it: an issue we’ve seen with first time parents in other nests. Unusually in the nests we’ve watched, both parents were new, so neither one had experience or learning to draw on. Instead of brooding, HD flew away at his first glimpse of the new eaglet, although he quickly returned. And HM dropped a large live trout into the egg cup with DH1 instead of killing it, preparing it, and feeding DH1 small bites. While eaglets should be able to go about 24 hours without a feeding following hatch, the large, cold fish and general weather conditions placed high energy demands on the hatchling. DH1 most likely died of hypothermia, with lack of food and injury from the trout both possible contributing factors.

As one eaglet died, another one arrived. DH2 hatched at 6:45pm on April 6. Fortunately, HD and HM appeared to learn from their first eaglet. DH2’s first feeding – tiny morsels, not a whole live trout – happened at 2:20pm on April 7.

Things are good in the cottonwood!

From there on out, things were good in the cottonwood! As indicated by its constantly swollen crop, DH2 was the lone beneficiary of the 322 meals its parents brought to the nest. They protected their eaglet from hail, slashing rain, and snow, drove away geese, subadult eagles, and things that go bump in the night, and were generally exemplary eagle parents all season long, a scary talon ride notwithstanding! It was such a pleasure to see cute PS’s, family meals, and swollen cropzillas in N1 again!

DH2 fledged at 6:08 on June 30, at 85 days of age – our oldest eaglet to fledge so far!

Since DH2 fledged, we’ve enjoyed watching it around the hatchery! Transmitter research done by Brett Mandernack and Ryan Schmitz of Eagle Valley found that fledglings didn’t tend to fly over a mile from the nest within their first month post-fledge; slowly began making longer loops out and back to the nest as they learned to fly, forage, and navigate; and dispersed at an average 162 days of age. DH2 will turn 132 days of age today which means, based on our data, that she will most likely disperse during the second week of September.

Here’s to a wonderful 2023 and a hopeful 2024!

We know that some of you are disappointed by the early turn off time. While our new camera systems are much better than they used to be, they are also much more complicated and we have more sites, so everything takes more testing, planning, and installation time than it used to. In the meantime, we’ll do our best to keep everyone posted and we’re looking forward to returning at noon on October 14th. Raise a glass and join us in a toast to a wonderful 2023 and a hopeful 2024 at both Decorah nests! Sláinte!

Made it this far? Don’t forget to pick up your 2023 Cottonwood Completion Certificate! Looking for something to watch while the Decorah cameras are down? Check out our Mississippi Flyway and Great Spirit Bluff falcon cameras! Birds are beginning to gather on the Flyway and it is a wonderful time to watch!