Thursday, February 4, 2016

Bald Eagles fail a second time

In a previous post (DEC 31: Bald Eagles trying for a family-- again), I related that, after failing to breed in the winter of 2014-15, the local pair of Bald Eagles (Pride and his new mate Jewel) began incubating their first egg on or about December 13, 2015. This egg was predicted to hatch 35 days later, around January 17. The adults took turns sitting on the eggs and usually only the tops of their heads were visible above the nest rim. We were very optomistic that this was to be a successful breeding season for the pair. 

Adult deep in nest on January 10:

Bald Eagle nest adult incubating 20160110

Winter in south Florida is normally the peak of the dry season, but the weather has been unusually cool and rainy. On the morning of January 16 we performed a welfare check  and could barely see the nest through the fog. An adult (presumably Jewel) briefly looked down into the nest before again settling down deep. Possibly the eggs were pipping. Once an egg hatches we expect her to position herself a bit higher, "tenting" the hatchling under her wings while continuing to incubate any remaining eggs.

Bald Eagle 0462-20160116

On January 17, a brief but very intense rain and wind storm passed over between 7 and 8 AM. We got out to the Bald Eagle nest around 9:15 AM and found the nest intact but with a recently fallen branch covering its right half. It had not been there the previous day and likely was blown down from the nest tree. The female was deep in the nest and only popped her head up a few times over the left rim of the nest:  

Bald Eagle female after storm 20160117

At about 10:00 AM she stood up, ruffled her feathers, spread her wings and preened for about 5 minutes. She looked down into the nest and then changed her position to face to the right and settled down deep in the nest. No feeding activity or male eagle were observed.

Bald Eagle female on nest 20160117

January 18 was again rainy and cold, with the temperature reaching below 50 degrees (F). We checked the nest but could not see any adult on the nest. Perhaps he or she was sitting very deep to protect an eaglet or eggs from the cold. The next morning (January 19) we visited the nest at about 9:30 AM and watched until 10:10 AM. It was a cool 56 degrees (F) with a brisk northerly wind of about 8-10 MPH. The male (Pride) was standing on the nest. 

Bald Eagle male at nest 20160119

He turned his back to tear at a prey item and clearly was feeding small morsels to one or more eaglets. 

Bald Eagle male feeding nestling 2-20160119

Bald Eagle male feeding nestling 5-20160119

He continued the feeding until 10:00 AM, when he flew to a branch just above and to the right of the nest to clean his bill. His mate was not in sight.

Bald Eagle male cleans bill 20160119

After approximately two minutes Pride flew to another branch which was a bit higher. He seemed restless and was looking about. We thought he might be waiting for his mate (Jewel) to return. He did not vocalize. In the meantine the nest remained uncovered. 

Bald Eagle male moves higher 2-20160119

Bald Eagle male moves higher 3-20160119

Phil, another veteran nest watcher, joined us just after 10:00 AM  and checked the nest again several times that day, reporting that there had been no change-- Pride was still roosting and Jewel had not returned. Later Phil visited at 12:45 PM and reported that now Jewel was roosting on the branch near the nest and that there was no adult on the nest. In view of the cool temperatures this seemed rather unusual, as newly hatched eaglets are incapable of regulating their body temperature and must be covered. Our concern deepened over the next three days after multiple observers failed to see any feeding activity and usually found no adults on or near the nest.

On the morning of January 23, while birding in the wetlands about 1.5 miles southeast of the eagle nest, I saw two adult eagles flying from the nest area in the direction of a large lake where they often forage, about 2 minutes apart at 7:41 and 7:43 AM. It was a cool 62 degrees with a brisk NW wind under threatening skies. Phil reported that the eagles had not appeared back at the nest by 8:30 AM.

Looking back at the entrance gate at sunrise, the red sky promised more rain:

South on Miramar Parkway at sunrise HDR 20160118

Wind stirred the surface of the lake at mid-morning:
Late Morning Sky HDR 20160119

Over the next few days it had become quite clear that at least one eaglet had been lost and any others had failed to hatch or were abandoned.  Did the storm and falling branch result in injury to the eaglet or destruction of the eggs? 

My January 29 bird walk took an unusual turn at 7:23 AM when I heard and then spotted Bald Eagles, about 1/4 mile away at the north end of the wetlands preserve. As I moved nearer I could see that there were two adults and a second year juvenile (the latter visible in the upper right corner of this photo, best viewed large): 

Bald Eagle adults and immature 2-20160129

The adults chased the youngster and it flew up and circled, still too far away for good photos. Its dark belly and partially molted flight feathers identify it as a little over 1 year old, in "second year" plumage:  

Bald Eagle immature in flight 4-20160129

The two adults roosted in the grove of herbicide-killed Melaleucas on the far side of the wet prairie. The smaller of the two perched up higher. I took comparable photos from several positions of each from a range of 650 to 400 feet, using the same crop factor so that I could compare their size and shape. This is the male, 400 feet away:

Bald Eagle adult male 3-20160129

The female, at the same range and crop factor, is noticeably larger:

Bald Eagle adult female 3-20160129

At 7:47 AM the female started calling and flew up to roost just behind the male. 

Bald Eagle female joins male on roost 6-20160129

About 10 minutes later the female flew to a higher perch about 100 feet farther along the grove of dead trees, assuming a receptive position. Both eagles kept calling as the male flew and briefly mounted her, but they did not copulate. 

Bald Eagle Jewel flies to perch 3-20160129

BaldEagle Pride flies to Jewel 2-20160129

Because of her distinctive undertail markings I identified the female as Jewel, from the Pembroke Pines nest 1.4 miles to the NW. The male is presumably Pride, her mate, who then quickly flew to a nearby snag and then off to the north. Jewel roosted a while longer before flying up and circling to the north, carrying a small branch. As of today the adults continue to visit the nest site but there has been no sign of any eaglets, which by now would be growing rapidly and require frequent feeding.

Bald Eagle Jewel departs with stick at 0802AM 20160129 20160129

Reflections in the flooded lakeside prairie:

Reflections in flooded prairie HDR 20160131

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to GOOD FENCES by Tex (Theresa). 

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy


Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to I Heart Macro by Laura


Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display



  1. Shame - do alder birds have tendency to have sterile eggs?

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  2. Hello Ken, awesome post and photos of the Eagles. The report on the nest is kind of sad. It would be nice to see the eaglets. Happy Thursday, enjoy your day!

  3. How sad but a very interesting post well documented with the loveliest photos. They truly are a magnificent bird and I hope Jewel and Pride will be able to hatch a healthy brood in safety. The scenery is magnificent.

  4. a shame they did not have a successful brood.

  5. love the photos, he's beautiful...that last shot is gorgeous!

  6. I'm very jealous of those eagle photos. ;))

  7. Outstanding photos.....The Bald Eagle is such a rare sight in our area! I enjoyed seeing these pictures today... Hope your day is filled with many blessings...

  8. Well that's certainly a sad tale, but beautiful photos of the eagles. We often get one or two eagles perching? high up near the top of our tall pine tree. It's always thrilling to see them.

  9. How sad to hear that there were no eaglets again. These are such gorgeous birds. You are so lucky to be able to view them like this. I enjoyed the post about them very much.

  10. A most fascinating post describing the life journeys of these eagles. Stunning colours in the sky over the prairie in the last photo.

  11. I am still awed by eagles. Informative post. You did a wonderful job on this series of images. HAPPY GROUND HOG's DAY!
    JM, Illinois

  12. I really like the three photos that you showcased the sky, different colors of sky and you are able to capture them...thanks for sharing it to us.

  13. Feel so sad that they didn't succeed in raising even one eaglet!

  14. Oh your awesome pics of the nest are so inspirational! You must have a powerful lens to come so close!

  15. Wow, particularly love the last shot, but they are all great. Wonderful shots of the Eagles

  16. Fabulous shots - but so sad to hear about the baby eagles.

  17. My Word! What amazing photos you have shared. Just beautiful!

  18. All very nice images. Amazing skies and beautiful photos of the eagles. Thanks for sharing this beauty.

  19. Sorry to hear about the eaglets. You capture some really beautiful skies!

  20. You are privileged to be able to see such majestic birds, sorry to hear the eaglets failed to live

  21. Wonderful shots of the eagles, KCS.

    Best of luck to Pride and Jewel next time.

  22. I am so so sad that they weren't successful in hatching eaglets. Perhaps they will try again. I hope so. Your photos are incredible!

  23. sad that the eagles were not successful, hopefully they will try again. Our eagles are just building nests and mating now. Eagles have a hard life in my eyes. Oh your pictures are amazing and I enjoyed the whole article on the eagles so much. I hope you put more in.

  24. Hello, just stopping back to say thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Have a happy weekend!

  25. Gorgeous pictures with a sad story. Excellent documentation...

  26. Great documentation of the Eagles and their potential new eaglets ~ Gorgeous photos and sad to hear no new babies ~

    Happy Weekend to you, ^_^

  27. Ken, thanks for adding this post link to I'd Rather B Birdin' this week....

    You wonder if they're so stressed in such a way they are unsuccessful. Such majestic beauties!!

  28. Wonderful pictures! I'm sorry they did not succeed in having little ones. Better luck next time.

  29. Lets hope they try again. Beautiful reflection images too


  30. Great photos of these wonderful birds! It's a shame they didn't succeed in breeding. Maybe next year.

  31. Hello Ken!:) This is such a well documented post with lovely photos of the Bald Eagles. It does seem a great shame that after two attempts they were unsuccessful in raising the eaglets. A disapointing outcome for them and for us. I hope all will be well next time.

  32. Sorry that the outcome was unsuccessful, but I suppose it's encouraging that they did make the attempt this year and came close. Maybe conditions will be more favorable next time.

  33. Your photos are outstanding as well as the documentating of it all, reminds me I`ll have to check facebook for the nesting pair of eagles in Hanover,Pa. They were successful last year in all the cold & snow that we had. Eagles are amazing,thank-you for sharing,phyllis

  34. Aww that is too bad. We have quite the Eagle saga going on over here in North Fort Myers; I will probably post an update sometime this season, but with not nearly such good pictures. (Also, everyone in the whole wide world can follow these two on the nest cam, so nothing I say will be news).


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