Nestorations – spring cleaning for bald eagles!
Spring cleaning time is here. Maybe that’s a good thing if we have time to spare while staying at home. But we’re not the only ones doing spring cleaning. Birds are nesting now. And – after a long winter out in the elements – many bird nests don’t just need spring cleaning, but serious restoration – nestoration!
Many backyard birds make a new nest each year. Nest building is an important part of their courtship ritual to attract a mate. But birds of prey – like hawks, vultures, owls, osprey and eagles – mate for life. So they don’t need to build a new nest each year. Instead they reuse the same nest year after year. And nestorations are in order each spring.
Bald eagles are a case in point. Their nests – or aeries – are huge, often as much as 10 feet wide and 6 feet deep. And can weigh 1,200 pounds or more. Remember, they need to be big enough to accommodate as many as 5 full-size eagles – 2 adults and up to 3 eaglets that will be as big as their parents before fledging (leaving the nest).
These enormous nests require a lot of nestoration. The nests are made of interwoven sticks. And the eagle parents – like many married couples – often play tug-of-war arguing over the placement of each and every new stick. Each year they also build a new egg cup in the nest, lined with moss, soft grasses and corn husks, where they lay their eggs.
Have you seen a bald eagle nest in a tree off in the distance and maybe the adults – with striking white heads and tails – sitting on a nearby branch? Too bad we can’t see the goings on inside the nest because they are so high up, often 70-100 feet off the ground. Not the eggs laid, the chicks hatched, the hatchlings brooded. The growing eaglets bonking each other fighting for the sushi – fresh fish and small mammals – served up by mom and dad. Or the fledglings wingercizing – wing flapping and taking test flights before they fledge.
Or can we? Well, we can. We can watch all the eagle nest drama on nest cams! We have two active eagle nests in our area with 24/7 live streaming nest cams – one at Redwood Elementary School in Avon Lake, where Stars and Stripes (as the school kids have named them) are raising 3 eaglets that hatched April 10-12, 2020 (view live on YouTube at bit.ly/2xFwiuZ). And another in the Rocky River Metropark, where the first eaglet hatched on April 14 (bit.ly/3evj98r). There is also a popular bald eagle nest cam in Decorah, Iowa, that has live camera operators who can zoom in on the action (bit.ly/3bufSod). The Decorah nest cam is operated by the Raptor Resource Project, which has an online education program (www.raptorresource.education) with lesson plans and a classroom chat that can be used for home schooling.
So, when you get tired of spring cleaning, why not take a break and watch the nestorations and other goings on in our local eagle nests.
Retired physician (pathologist). Resident of Bay Village. Outdoor and wildlife enthusiast, bird watcher, antiquer.