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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Wild eagles fledge at the zoo

Wild bald eagles have been nesting on grounds for several years and this year has been no exception. In 1999, a pair nested in a large Douglas fir in our elk yard and fledged one youngster. In 2001, they again nested, this time fledging two young. In 2002 and 2003, the eagles nested again, successfully raising two young each year.

Although they nested again in 2004, but the nest failed. It's not known why the egg failed to hatch. Up to seven eagles were seen flying around the area and this activity may have caused the pair to abandon the nest, however no one can know for sure (except the eagles!).

This year, a pair again nested and laid eggs around March 27 and the eggs hatched around May 1. The two eaglets have grown and are now in the process of fledging (leaving) the nest.

There is no way of knowing if the birds that nested were the same pair each year, although bald eagles typically have long-term bonds. One of more of the birds may have changed mates and used alternate nesting sites. Raptor keepers could tell from the beginning that the zoo was an alternate nesting site. The quality of construction of the nest is variable from year to year, increasing in size as the birds add more material such as sticks and branches. The eagles here build a fairly flimsy nest that falls apart each year, barely lasting long enough for the young to reach fledging age.

The photo shows one of the parents bringing a fish back to feed the young, one of which is visible just the the right of the bird under its wing. We hope the birds are successful with this year's brood and return for many years to come! They've been a delight to watch and we even set up spotting scopes for zoo visitors to view them.

As of last year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was aware of 21 known nests in 11 territories within the city limits. This is based on all reports they had received over the last 10 or so years, so there may be some duplication, or inactive territories. So keep your eyes on the skies! (Photo by Kaye Cartwright-Lissa)

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