Bald eagles, our national emblem since 1782, were a rare sight in New Hampshire in 1980, but their comeback has been strong. At Spofford Lake, local observers note that the first signs of a nest being built at ‘Wheeler Point’ occurred around 2015. It wasn’t until 2020 however, when two babies (eaglets) were spotted, a first in a very long time. While the nest suffered considerable wind damage that year, the eaglets managed to survive. In early 2021, after some rehabbing and reinforcing of the nest, the eagles of Spofford produced, to the delight of all, another healthy eaglet, which was seen growing into maturity.
The 2022 season is soon upon us. Boaters, kayakers, and other passersby will again gaze at “Wheeler Point” hoping for signs of the adults and especially of new offspring.
Do eagles mate for life?
Bald eagles stay hitched until death they do part. Once a pair has succeeded in breeding, the pair will likely remain together for many years. If one mate dies or does not return to the nesting site, the surviving eagle generally will find a new mate very quickly. The remaining mate will likely use the existing nest with a new mate because of strong nest site fidelity.
According to Frank Gill, Audubon's senior vice president of science, more than 95 percent of bird species are monogamous, making them among the most loyal members of the animal kingdom. Recent research, however, is yielding evidence that philandering may be more prevalent than previously supposed. "The general rule emerging," says Gill, "is that sexual infidelity is common in socially monogamous species."
What about courtship and child rearing?
Though the birds' courtship rituals are spectacular in their display of aerial acrobatics, it is nest building that cements the bond between male and female. Dad's contribution to his progeny doesn't end at conception. He sticks around to help incubate the eggs and feed the offspring.
How many eggs and how long before they hatch?
The average clutch (group of eggs) is 1-3. With an incubation period of about 35 days, it can take a day for the hatchling to completely break free of the egg after pipping (cracking the egg). Eggs hatch in the order in which they were laid.
How long until the eaglets fledge?
Bald eagles fledge at about 10-14 weeks. Prior to their first flight, nestlings will flap their wings in the nest or while jumping to an adjacent branch in behavior known as branching.
How long do juvenile eagles stay with their parents after fledging?
Juvenile bald eagles remain associated with their parents for 4-10 weeks after fledging. Some immature eagles depend entirely on their parents for food during the first 4 weeks after leaving the nest.
Will the juveniles return to the nest?
Studies show that juveniles are generally nomadic in the first four years of their life and can cover extensive geographic areas. When the juveniles are ready to mate, they tend to return to the general area where they were born. However, if a juvenile attempted to return to its birth nest, the adult pair would view it as an intruder and drive it away.
Do bald eagles migrate?
The simple answer is that some do and some don’t. If bald eagles live in an area with plenty of food and water year round, then they’re inclined to stay put. In other instances, bald eagles will migrate south during the winter or to coastal areas where food sources are more abundant.
Is there holiday for bald eagles?
Yes. June 20th is designated as National American Bald Eagle Day. Mark your calendar!
Thanks to the following for their contributions: Local observers Lee and Bob Brockman, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, NH Audobon Society, National Audobon Society, NH Fish & Game, National Eagle Center, NH Bird Records and Wildlifeinformer.com, and Birdwatchingbuzz.com.
Page updated March 20, 2023