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Nesting Eagles

While hundreds of eagles visit northwest Illinois during the winter, most move further north during the spring to nest. There are, however, a couple of dozen nesting pairs that remain in the area all year. For the past several years, I’ve had the pleasure of being able to document their nesting with my photography.

This pair of eagles had their nest come down in a storm last fall. Thus, they had to rebuild the nest from scratch.

The story of this year’s nesting is

both a sad and a heartwarming story. About 3 weeks after the 2 chicks were born, the female adult eagle disappeared, and I presumed had died. Subsequently, as the surviving male adult eagle was trying to provide food for both chicks, one of the two chicks grew much faster than the other. The smaller of the two died. Eventually, the surviving chick also seemed to be in trouble. At that point, about 3 weeks after the female disappeared, I inlisted the help of a wildlife rehab facility called Hoo Haven, from Durand, Illinois, to see if it was appropriate to do a rescue of the chick. As the people from Hoo Haven were getting ready to go evaluate the situation, amazingly, 2 adult eagles were soaring in the sky over the nest. The female had returned. We presume that she had suffered a serious injury, perhaps, a broken wing. The time that she was away from the nest was just about the time it would have taken for the bone to have healed. During that period of time, the male eagle would have been trying to find food for himself and for the chicks, but he also would have been bringing food to the injured female and protecting her from predators. Even though the one chick died, the adult male certainly did a remarkable job of trying to take care of the chicks and his injured mate. 

Once the female returned, the surviving chick was getting food from both adults and started to become more active and healthy, and, thus, a rescue was not called for. I give many thanks to Karen and Steve from Hoo Haven for their assistance in evaluating the situation and their willinglness to do whatever would be necessary to insure the survival of the chick. 

(Note-the pictures in the nesting galleries are in the order that events took place. They start with the building of the nest and continue with sitting on the eggs and the growth of the chicks. During the time the female was recovering from her injury, you will notice that, most of the time, there was no adult at the nest because the male was busy looking for food and tending the the injured female.)

My photos of nesting eagles are taken from further away than most of my other photos because I try to maintain a distance that does not cause stress to the birds or otherwise interfere with what they would be doing had I not been there.

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