order to have Bald Eagles in the future, Bald Eagles living today have
to reproduce. This involves a LOT of critical steps, and scientists
are still trying to figure out a lot of the details.
Defense and Nest Building: 1 - 3 months
Both the male and female bring nesting materials; some eagle researchers believe it's the female who usually places the sticks in the nest. It takes from 1 - 3 months to build an eagle nest. Once it's built, a pair often uses it year after year, adding sticks and fresh plants and working on construction at the beginning of the nesting season. Also, many times the pair makes nest repairs or builds onto the nest for a while after the babies have left for the season.
Both the male and female defend their territory against possible predators, especially ravens and other raptors. In defending the territory against other Bald Eagles, usually males chase off other males, and females chase off other females.
Laying: 3 - 6 days
Eggs: 35 days
One study showed that the female was responsible for 72% of the incubation. (How much was the male responsible for?)
sit on their eggs most of the time--one study showed that the eggs
were incubated 98% of the time! But when the temperature is warm and
there is little wind, the parents incubate less often. Sometimes when
the parents leave the eggs, they cover them with feathers and nesting
materials. Scientists don't know for sure whether they do this to keep
the eggs warm or to hide the eggs so predators don't steal them.
Incubating lasts about 35 days.Taking Care of Nestlings: 8 - 14 weeks
Some scientists did a study keeping track of all the time that the parent eagles spent at the nest. Once the babies hatched, the female was present at the nest about 90% of the time. The male was present about 50% of the time. This adds up to more than 100% because sometimes BOTH parents are present at the nest. During the study, at least one of the parents was at the nest almost all the time.
When the weather is hot and sunny, one or both of the parents shade the babies. During the first four weeks after hatching, one of the parents (usually the female) broods the babies to keep them warm almost all the time, especially when the weather is cool. At this time, females brood about 65% of the time and males about 35%.
In one study, the parents brought food to the nest 1 - 8 times per day. The average was about 4 times a day. During the first two weeks, the male provides most of the food. After 3 or 4 weeks, the female provides as much food as the male, and by the late nesting period, the female provides most of the food.
As the babies eat, poop, and grow, the nest starts getting dirty. The babies usually lean over the edge of the nest to poop, but once in a while they miss! And food particles remain in the nest after each feeding. After a while, these build up to a goopy, stinky mess. Eagles simply do not have any idea about cleaning their nest. Instead, they add fresh leaves and other plant parts to cover up the mess. (This is a lot like sweeping dirt under the rug or hiding dirty clothes under your bed!)
The young practice flapping for weeks before their first flight. Sometimes one of them falls from the nest. If this happens, it can't usually get back into the nest. But the parents usually feed it on the ground. Sometimes when the babies remain in the nest for 11 or 12 weeks, the parents seem to encourage the babies to fledge by flying around the nest carrying food.Taking Care of Fledglings: 4 - 6 weeks