Something is happening among nesting bald eagles in the James River watershed that may explain what we’re seeing among peregrines in western Pennsylvania. There are lots of eagles at the James River but less nesting success than in the past. The Center for Conservation Biology (CCB) in Williamsburg, Virginia has figured out why.
CCB has been conducting bald eagle nesting surveys every March since the 1970s. Seven years after DDT was banned they found only one pair of bald eagles in the watershed. This year there are 319 pairs.
Lower nesting success is not a food problem, it’s a competition problem. CCB explains:
The mechanism causing the decline does not appear to be traditional resource competition where pairs scramble for their share of limited fish. Rather, the mechanism appears to be young marauding eagles that are disrupting territory holders and competing for a limited set of viable breeding territories.
Young bald eagles are harassing adult pairs in an attempt to gain a territory — so much so that some pairs fail to nest successfully.
Sometimes learning from a small mistake is just what you need to make the next big step in life. A red-tailed hawk nestling found that out last Friday.
The three nestlings at Cornell’s Red-tailed Hawk Nestcam were ready to fledge on 14 June but no one had done it yet. One was eating and playing with his food. The other two were bored and puttering around the nest high above Cornell University’s stadium.
One of them, J2, decided to test his wings from a perch on the stadium light. It was windy. He started to slide down the light. Whoops! … I can fly!
Watch the faces of his siblings as he flies around the stadium and lands in the trees.
Every day that passes without an egg at the Cathedral of Learning nest confirms my disappointment that there’s no Pittsburgh peregrine family to watch online. However, we have a great alternative at a local nest with two active chicks.
The eaglets at the Hays bald eagle nest have long since passed the brooding stage and already have pin feathers. Their parents stand guard overnight as seen this morning before 5am.
The first eaglet appeared on Sat 21 March 21 at 7:40am, above. The second one hatched on Monday 23 March at 6:40am, below.
In the day between hatchlings, Audubon Society of Western PA captured this video of the mother rolling her second egg. Notice how carefully she holds her talons inward as she steps near her chick. What a good mom!
p.s. Stay safe, folks. Online viewing is best! Allegheny and seven other Pennsylvania counties are now under a Stay At Home order through 6 April. (Click for details) We are allowed to go outdoors but must stay six feet apart.
There’s happy news at the Harmar bald eagle nest, observed by Gina Gilmore.
Gina was on hand on Wed 26 Feb 2020 at 1:57pm when she saw — and filmed — the female bald eagle behaving as if she had laid her first egg. The bird stood in the nest, often looked down between her feet, and remained standing as if she was waiting for an egg to dry. Then she settled down to begin incubation.
Click here or on the image above to see Gina’s video. When you play the video, click on the speaker icon at bottom right to turn on sound …
This egg is the 10th at the Harmar site since nesting was first confirmed in 2013/2014 and the 1st for 2020. A second egg is due today or tomorrow, 28 or 29 Feb, at Harmar.
Thank you, Gina Gilmore, for filming this happy event. Without an eaglecam on the nest, we rely on observers like Gina to note behavior that indicates an egg has been laid. See more of Gina’s photos on her Facebook page.
Happy news on Valentine’s Day! Last evening the Audubon Society of Western PA (ASWP) announced:
[Pittsburgh, PA, February 13, 2020] – Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania confirms an egg in the Hays, PA Bald Eagle nest. The egg, laid at 6:30 pm this evening, is visible in the nest on the eagle cam when the incubating adult stands up: http://aswp.org/pages/hays-nest. There is typically a 2-3 day span in between eggs being laid in a Bald Eagle nest. In 2019, the Hays Bald Eagles laid three eggs; two hatched and the juveniles successfully fledged the nest.