The bald eagle population has grown to well above population goals that were set back in the 1970s. Minnesota's eagle population has shown a steady increase since banning harmful pesticides and the state and federal laws put in place to protect eagles.
Many threats to eagle productivity and nest success still exist, but their population continues to thrive. One hundred percent success rate at each nest is never guaranteed, of course and failure is a natural occurrence at each nest from time to time. Our Eaglecam nest is no exception, and we have witnessed the death of chicks as well as the nest failure the first year we had the camera up. Successful fledging of eagle chicks requires many environmental factors, none of which are predictable or consistent from year to year, or from pair to pair.
This year has been a dramatic and interesting peek into the lives of bald eagles in Minnesota. Each year we watch, we learn more about the behavior and nesting habits of these regal birds.
It was once believed that bald eagles were monogamous, but population density is beginning to show the territorial and individual competition that happens when many birds live in close proximity to each other.
Though the female remains the matriarch at this nest, many males are competing for her, this nest, and its surrounding territory. The female and at least two males have been vigorously defending the nest this season. Local photographers have captured many territorial disputes in the air around the nest. Three eggs were laid in late February, but the weather has not been favorable for successful incubation of the eggs. Snow is a tremendous insulator, but not when it is too wet. We suspect that is the reason the eggs are not being incubated effectively. Sitting on the eggs in cold, wet snow is proving to be a burden on the adult birds. Just like humans, the eagles are equipped to handle cold (covered in feathers), but the consistent moisture and wet conditions can cause hypothermia. In order to protect themselves, the adults are trying to remain dry which takes them off of the cold, wet conditions in the nest bole. We can be grateful the birds are able to protect themselves from dying of hypothermia.
If the eggs turn out to be infertile or are not developing, the female may eat the eggs, or push them out of the nest in order to re-clutch. In other words, it is not impossible that she could lay more eggs this year, depending on how much energy her body has expended in laying and protecting the current eggs. While it may be disheartening to see eggs not being incubated, the sooner the first clutch is abandoned, the more likely a re-nesting could occur.
Don't lose hope for the nest, and don't forget how much we are all learning from watching this new camera and these magnificent birds! Everything that happens in the nest is a learning experience for all of us and we are so fortunate to have a healthy population of eagles here in Minnesota. None of this would be possible without the great work our Nongame Program is able to produce because of the generous donations of all of you viewers and donors. Keep watching the Eaglecam for this privileged look into the lives of our national bird. We can't thank you enough for your continued donations, they all make a huge difference for our beautiful eagles and all other nongame animals! YOU personally make the difference!