Why we can't stop watching the Decorah eagles

Two bald eagles’ nests in Iowa have captured our rapt attention thanks to webcams that share the flurry of their daily activities — and lately that activity has included eggs. In not too long, eaglets will be born.

Here’s what you need to know about the magnificent feathered stars of Decorah and Decorah North, the two nests where webcams have been documenting all the action. (You may have caught the Decorah eagles during one of MNN’s Facebook Live sessions, like the current one below. We’ll continue to share those live cams throughout the month.)

Decorah eagles

The birds: According to experts from the Raptor Resource Project, Dad is known as DM2 because he’s the second Decorah male eagle for this nest. Dad, Mom’s original mate, disappeared in April of 2018. Mom had two other suitors before she accepted DM2 as her mate.

Based on her plumage color, Mom was 4 years old in 2007, making her 15 in 2018. All they know for sure about DM2 is that he is an adult eagle, which makes him at least 5 years old.

Mom is larger than DM2 and has a slightly darker head, a deeper brow and gray “eyeshadow” around her eyes. DM2 has a brown spot or discoloration above his left eye and he has dark “eyeliner” around his eyes.

Decorah mom eagle The Decorah mom eagle rejected two suitors before settling on her current mate. (Photo: The Raptor Resource Project/Facebook)

The nest: The eagles have built three nests on their own. The first was destroyed in a storm. They left the second nest on their own, and the third also was destroyed in a storm. Members of the Raptor Resource Project started building a new nest for them out of sticks and leafy debris, hoping the eagles would finish it … which they did. The new nest, as with the last, is close to the Decorah Trout Hatchery.

Laying eggs: Egg laying takes a lot of work. Mom moves around a bit and fine-tunes the nest bowl before becoming very still and settling over the egg cup. Here she is on Feb. 22 laying the first of her three eggs this season.

Mom laid the last of her three eggs on March 3. That’s when the real work begins, according to a post from the Raptor Resource Project, “You long-time watchers know this, but eggs need to be turned, temperature controlled, and humidity controlled. Eagles do all this instinctively via input from their brood patches and possibly other sensors we don’t know about.”

The Raptor Resource Project anticipates a first hatch around April 1. Mom and DM2 are keeping the eggs sheltered and insulated with grasses and husks.

Decorah North eagles

The Decorah North eagles sit on their nest. The Decorah North eagles sit on their nest. (Photo: The Raptor Resource Project)

The birds: Not much is known about these eagle parents. Members of the Raptor Resource Project think “Mr. North” may have been a father for the first time in 2016, based on the pair’s egg-laying chronology, but there’s no way to verify that since the birds are not banded. The current female is Decorah North Female, or DNF. She replaced Mrs. North in the summer of 2018. The group doesn’t know exactly how or when it happened.

The nest: This is the fourth nest built in the area since 2009. The first nest was built in a pine tree, but the branches collapsed after the second nesting season, so the birds moved to a dead elm tree. They only nested there for a single year, before moving in 2013 to a new location.

In August of 2018, that nest collapsed and slid or fell out of the tree during a heavy storm. Because none of the branches were broken or damaged, members of the Rapture Resource Project Project decided to build a starter nest in the same spot. This is their sixth season and second nest in this location.

The nest is on private property north of Decorah. The nest is seven feet long, four feet wide, about 3.5 feet high, and has a perimeter of roughly 18 feet. Situated about 56 feet off the ground, the nest is located in a white oak tree in a bit of forest bordering a valley.

Laying eggs: Mrs. North laid her first egg on Feb. 21 and her second on Feb. 25 on a very cold and windy day.

Here’s a look at the Decorah North eagles doing a shift change on the nest:

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information since it was originally published in March 2018.

Mary Jo DiLonardo writes about everything from health to parenting — and anything that helps explain why her dog does what he does.

Why we can’t stop watching the Decorah eagles

The bald eagles of the Decorah and Decorah North nests in Iowa show off their growing family to the world.

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