The Horan Eagles Second Year
by Julanne Burts
In their second year at the Horan Nest, our local Bald Eagles were more successful than their first. During 2020 the pair successfully raised three eaglets.
Beginning with sporadic visits in the fall and winter, the pair began upgrading the nest and getting reacquainted. By February eggs were laid and the parents took turns incubating and hunting.
Though it seemed dad spent much less time on domestic duties than mom, he was a good provider. One afternoon he brought in a fish almost too large to carry. Mom had to duck too avoid a fin in the face as dad struggled with a less than graceful landing. After a wonderful dinner, mom snuggled up to him as if to thank him for the wonderful dinner.
From the ground, we were unable to determine how many eggs, or exactly when they hatched, but the feeding flights became more urgent in the first part of April. Behavior in the nest also changed as the parents moved more carefully and they were tearing food into smaller pieces. Still, we had not seen the hatchlings.
As the eaglets grew, mom and dad spent progressively more time hunting. Usually fish but occasionally something with fur would come back to the nest. Young eagles are vulnerable to attack by owls, osprey and in May mom chased off a hawk that had the bad judgement to fly over the nest. One of the parents was always nearby to provide security. That weekend we got our first look at the youngsters when a photo captured three heads poking above the nest. Baby eagles grow fast and soon they had filled the nest. Mom and dad slept in branches near the nest but kept the food coming during the day.
In early June the new birds were nearing full size and stretching their wings. Later that month they were venturing onto nearby branches. Hopping and flapping to gain strength and coordination their first solo flights were close.
My visit on July 3 found two of the juvenile eagles flying in the park. Soaring together over the river and through the trees they were gaining confidence and skill with each flight. I did not observe them after July 3. By June 25, the remaining juvenile took its first flights. The remaining bird stayed for a few days, posing for pictures and making practice flights. On July 10, the third junior eagle flew several circuits around the park. Then, as I was wrapping up my day, it flew directly over me and off towards the river. Mom joined and the two flew up the river. I have not seen any of the juvenile birds since. I hope mom and dad return next season.