For American Eagle Foundation couples, love is in the air — or at least, instinct is in the air. The foundation’s president Al Cecere would be the first to tell you, though, that bald eagles do bond with each other. They mate for life.
American Eagle Foundation (AEF), based at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, has set up a series of nest cams that have drawn a host of avid spectators awaiting the hatch.
— DiscoverNL (@DiscoverNL) January 28, 2016
In Washington, D.C., they have, appropriately, Mr. President and the First Lady. The nest is located at the U.S. National Arboretum, high in a tulip poplar tree. The first egg is expected to hatch as early as today. Mr. President and First Lady are a pair of wild eagles that began building the nest in 2014. Even though it’s an urban area, they were attracted to the site due to the tall trees and close proximity to the Anacostia River. The river is the eastern boundary of the Arboretum and provides an ample food source, such as catfish and perch. There has also been evidence of the eagles feeding on ducks or gulls.
The Northeast Florida nest offers viewers a look at Romeo and Juliet, whose hatchlings were named through a “name the nestlings” contest. Dubbed “Liberty and Justice,” the babies can be watched through any one of four nest cams. They offer a selection of angles and close-up scrutiny as the parent birds care for their offspring. The AEF cautions that since this is a wild nest, anything can happen.
“While we hope that two healthy juvenile eagles will end up fledging from the nest this summer, things like sibling rivalry, predators, and natural disaster can affect this eagle family and and may be difficult to watch.”
Night viewing is made possible by an infrared camera, a system which is invisible to the eagles and doesn’t disturb their natural movements or navigation.
Hero and Volunteer are an eagle pair nesting at Eagle Mountain Sanctuary in Dollywood Park. They laid a pair of eggs that should be hatching at any time. Volunteer and Hero came to AEF in 2000 as a bonded pair, from the San Francisco Zoo. Since they are non-releasable, they live in the trees at the sanctuary, in as natural an environment as possible. Fresh food (such as quail and rats) is delivered to them daily by AEF staff, and laid at the bottom of the hill. The eagles fly down and choose what they want, and deliver food to their offspring.
Another pair of eagles in the Eagle Mountain Sanctuary, Independence and Franklin, have raised 30 eaglets since they began in 2002. When the eaglets are old enough, they are taken from the nest and placed in a hacking tower, where they are later released into the wild.
Isaiah and Mrs. Jefferson are each blind in one eye. They are currently incubating three eggs at the Dollywood sanctuary, all expected to hatch the last week of March.
Perhaps the favorite pair of eagles is Lady Independence and Sir Hatcher, who built a nest about five miles from the American Eagle Foundation in Pigeon Forge. They have produced several wild offspring since establishing their nesting site in 2013. Lady Independence is wearing a leg band, whose number revealed that she was hatched and raised by non-releasable bald eagle breeding pair Independence and Franklin. She had been released into the wild in 2008 from the AEF’s hack tower on Douglas Lake. Sir Hatcher is named after the late Bob Hatcher, former Tennessee Wildlife Endangered Species specialist, and correspondent and friend to AEF for many years.
American Eagle Foundation continues to educate the public about eagles, and thrill spectators with its “Wings Of America” birds of prey show at Dollywood Park. AEF is home to Challenger, the nation’s first non-releasable bald eagle to fly at major sporting events. Challenger is 26 years old and still flies during the national anthem at major league games, as well as serving as ambassador for the eagle in many other ways.
[Photo by Rocky Grimes/Shutterstock]