Two bald eagles' nests in Iowa have captured our rapt attention thanks to webcams that share the flurry of their daily activities — and lately that activity has included eggs. In not too long, eaglets will be born.
Here's what you need to know about the magnificent feathered stars of Decorah and Decorah North, the two nests where webcams have been documenting all the action. (You may have caught the Decorah eagles during one of MNN's Facebook Live sessions, like the current one below. We'll continue to share those live cams throughout the month.)
The birds: According to experts from the Raptor Resource Project, Dad (shown above) is the original male for this nest and Mom is his second mate. Based on her plumage color, Mom was 4 years old in 2007, making her 15 in 2018. They don't know how old Dad is, but they know he is older than Mom.
Mom is larger than Dad and has a slightly darker head, a more prominent brow and gray "eyeshadow" around her eyes.
The nest: The eagles have built three nests on their own. The first was destroyed in a storm. They left the second nest on their own, and the third also was destroyed in a storm. Members of the Raptor Resource Project started building a new nest for them out of sticks and leafy debris, hoping the eagles would finish it ... which they did. The new nest, as with the last, is close to the Decorah Trout Hatchery.
Laying eggs: According to a post from the Raptor Resource Project on Feb. 21, "Egg laying takes a lot of work and Mom and Dad seem to start preparations well in advance. Dad feeds Mom, who came to the nest shortly before dusk. He left and she stayed. It took over an hour – and plenty of sympathetic pushing and clicking by watchers – for her to lay her egg. During the first part of her wait, she moved around a little bit and fine-tuned the nest bowl. As she moved closer to laying, she became very still and settled over the egg cup. It was fascinating to see them prepare for laying, and Mom’s signs – shifting from foot to foot, hunching her back, and slight but visible lower abdominal contractions – were unmistakable."
Mom laid three eggs, with the last coming on Feb. 28. Here's a video of her laying the first egg.
The Raptor Resource Project anticipates a first hatch on April 1. Mom and Dad are keeping the eggs sheltered and insulated with grasses and husks.
Decorah North eagles
The birds: Not much is known about the eagle parents, other than they are older than 5. Members of the Raptor Resource Project think "Mr. North" may have been a father for the first time in 2016, based on the pair's egg-laying chronology, but there's no way to verify that since the birds are not banded. Mrs. North is the same bird the group has been watching since 2016.
The nest: This is the third nest built in the area since 2009. The first nest was built in a pine tree, but the branches collapsed after the second nesting season, so the birds moved to a dead elm tree. They only nested there for a single year, before moving in 2013 to their current location. This is their fifth season in this nest.
The nest is on private property north of Decorah. The nest is huge: It is nine feet long, seven feet wide, about 5.5 feet high, and has a perimeter of about 25 feet. Situated about 56 feet off the ground, the nest is located in a white oak tree in a bit of forest bordering a valley.
Laying eggs: Mrs. North laid her first egg on Feb. 25 and watchers are waiting to see whether she'll produce any more. "She has been copulating regularly, which is a good sign. Her laying schedule is much less predictable than that of Mom Decorah ... and we’re going to wait a bit to issue a hatch prediction."
Here's a look at the Decorah North eagles on their nest: