A Cautionary Tale

From The Washington Post: < https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2021/03/02/dc-bald-eagles/ >

A new, younger ‘First Lady’ bald eagle moves in at the National Arboretum

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A new, young female bald eagle has shown up at the nest of a bald eagle couple, Mr. President and the First Lady, in a tree on the grounds of the U.S. National Arboretum in Northeast Washington. (Courtesy of American Eagle Foundation/Friends of the National Arboretum)
By Dana Hedgpeth March 2, 2021 at 8:13 a.m. EST

There’s a new ‘First Lady’ in town.

A drama has been playing out between two female bald eagles in a nest that sits about 80 feet high in a tulip poplar tree at the National Arboretum in Northeast Washington.

Wildlife experts said a new, young female bald eagle arrived a few weeks ago and has pushed out and displaced the previous female bird — named the First Lady — from the nest. And the male bald eagle, Mr. President, is smitten.

It began in mid-February when watchers of live cameras at naeaglecam.org saw the happenings at the eagle nest as some new visitors arrived.

Dan Rauch, the District’s wildlife biologist, said the newest female visitor was one of five bald eagles — both male and female — that had recently checked out the nest. Often, the First Lady would come into the nest and chase off “any female spending any amount of time in the nest.”

“She would come in at 50 to 60 mph with the talons out,” Rauch said.

Mr. President tweets: The First Lady has laid an egg

There was one “altercation” between the two females, said Rauch, who caught a glimpse of it on the cameras. After the interaction, he said, the other female eagle “returned and the First Lady didn’t.” Wildlife experts said they last saw First Lady around Feb. 15.

Since then, the new female bald eagle has been cozying up to Mr. President in the nest.

“This one seems to have settled in,” Rauch said. “She immediately started to nuzzle his neck. They were food sharing and she was helping him get together the nest.”

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The young female bald eagle (left, with her back to the camera) is seen with Mr. President, the male bald eagle. (Courtesy of American Eagle Foundation/Friends of the National Arboretum)

He said the new female eagle also has been making “herself rather comfortable in the ‘nest cup,’” where she may lay eggs.

Bald eagles typically mate for life unless there’s a problem, Rauch said.

“They will mate for life as long as they’re successful, and having and raising chicks together,” Rauch said. “If they’re not successful, they will switch up partners and find new ones.”

It’s here! A baby bald eagle has hatched at a nest in D.C.

Mr. President and the First Lady had been together at the arboretum nest since 2014. The pair has laid and hatched seven chicks there, Rauch said. Their last chick hatched in 2018 and was named DC7, but it succumbed to West Nile virus. In the last two years, the bald eagle couple has had troubles producing offspring.

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Experts said the new female bald eagle is about 4 years old. (Courtesy of American Eagle Foundation/Friends of the National Arboretum)

So, it seems, Mr. President welcomed a new bird to the nest.

Rauch said Mr. President does tend to favor young female eagles. He estimated the new eagle is about 4 years old, judging by the chocolate coloring that’s sprinkled in on her white head. Mature bald eagles have completely white heads and they usually begin to mate at between 4 and 5 years old.

The new female bald eagle could be on the young side for mating and she may not be “mature enough to lay viable eggs,” Rauch said.

If the couple does lay eggs, now is the time to do it. Early February to mid-March is the typical “egg-laying” season, with the incubation period for bald eagles about 34 to 36 days.

Wildlife experts say they wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. President and his new, young female partner become parents.

Watch live: ‘Mr. President’ and ‘The First Lady’ nest at National Arboretum

The First Lady surprised wildlife experts in 2015 when she, as a young eagle, laid viable eggs. Rauch said that when those eggs hatched, Mr. President was the older, more mature bald eagle and knew what to do in feeding the chicks. Mr. President is between 11 and 12 years old.

“The First Lady was a younger eagle at the time and she didn’t know how to feed them,” Rauch said. “He kind of showed her.”

So far, Mr. President and his new female eagle appear to be hitting it off.

“They are constantly perched together, copulating and nest-building,” Rauch said.

Mr. President and the First Lady aren’t the only bald eagles in Washington to have a lover’s quarrel.

Two years ago, another bald eagle couple — Liberty and Justice — that live in a nest at the D.C. police training academy in Southwest Washington had been together for 14 years before trouble brewed. Justice, the male, went missing and two other male suitors — including one nicknamed “Aaron Burrd” by eagle watchers — showed up at the nest.

‘It’s a lot of drama at the nest this year’ for bald eagles in Washington

The bald eagle duo eventually got back together but moved their nest to a spot at Oxon Cove, off Interstate 295, according to Rauch. Last year, they had one chick.

As for the whereabouts of First Lady, no one is sure where she went. Experts said they plan to look for her during a helicopter flyover as they search for eggs along waterways in the Washington region.

Rauch said it’s possible she “moved off, looking for a new territory or mate.”

About Bruce

Work for sustainable development of small islands and the Chesapeake Bay; ex-Peace Corps (Volunteer and staff) in LA & Caribbean; cruised Caribbean on S/Y Meander for three years; like small tropical islands, French canals, Umbria, Tasmania, and NZ. Married 52 years to the late Kincey Burdett Potter (see Kincey.org). President of the now-sunsetting Island Resources Foundation.
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