Thoughts on Nesting Problems

Bald Eagle Biology


Thoughts on Nestling Problems:    Written:  Sat May 23, 2009 6:02 am

Nature does not always progress on a parallel course to our thoughts of kindness. The lessons are often rough and seemingly not compassionate. And the lessons are many.

Each year we have been through sibling rivalry that nearly resulted in death -- but never has in any of our nests. This in fact is a constant threat for the younger or smaller chick in every nest. Then there are totally unexpected or even previously unknown causes of death like we all suffered through with the loss of Echo.

Concerns on Rescue or Not to Rescue a Chick!

cont ...    

Concerns on Rescue or Not to Rescue a Chick!

There are some things we are allowed to do in rescuing a chick but these are few and do not involve entering an active nest. If a chick fell from a nest we would try and rescue it and have it taken to a rehabilitation center like OWL.

Simply put we are not allowed by the Provincial laws to disturb a nesting bald eagle. This means we cannot enter or approach closely an eagle nest that contains eggs or young. Even the horrible circumstance of us seeing an eaglet caught or impaired on something in the nest does not allow us to enter the nest. These laws are there for the longterm benefit of the eagles. They are not always followed but they are always there.

From another perspective, my experience on the BC coast is that in the 5 instances where someone entered the nest to place a CAM when the adult eagles were present all 5 nests were deserted. These were not our projects but projects of others who shall remain nameless. Since eggs were present all were lost. However something even more dramatic happens to these nesting sites. Each of these 5 nests were also abandoned for the next year. In other words the eagles carried over their concern that their nest was violated into at least the next year and would not renest there. In most cases the eagles will re-locate within the territory and build another nest -- but not use the 'violated' nest.

This places a further great burden on me. When I go to a landowner their first question is always, "Will your placement of a CAM in their nest jeopardize their nest? They always want assurance that my activities will not disturb their eagles.

My experience is as above. I cannot go into an active nest until the adults leave the area on their fall migration -- late August and September. Therefore to go into a nest and rescue a chick almost certainly means the loss of that nesting site for the next year -- at a minimum. What a dilemma for us. We have to watch a chick possibly starve or die from something and we cannot go into the tree for a rescue for fear of losing the breeding pair for the next and subsequent years.

In many areas the eagles are more tolerant, they accept human entry into the nest for banding etc. In the Channel Islands the birds are almost domestic, most being raised in captivity and then fledged on the Islands. The acceptance of these eagles is quite different than any of the pairs we have had experience with here. Our eagles are certainly tolerant of human activity below the nests but that seems to be entirely different from the eagle seeing someone in or at the level of the nest. That is 100% destructive so far in this area. In the 1960's every nest I entered for banding also was not used the following year. The eagles did not leave the nesting territory -- they renested down the beach a few yards. In some areas the birds have been banded every year for decades. Just not here. And it is here I have to be able to look the landowner in the eye and say our actions will not drive the eagles from his nest.

So in short we are confined to feeling empathetic, saddened and guilty. Between the law prohibiting our rescue actions and not wishing to disturb the nesting pair in future years we have to simply sit by and hope for the best. And in most cases, all so far, the "distressed" eaglet has survived! Had we climbed up to feed or rescue every bird our viewers demanded we would have worn out the bark on several trees -- and driven many nesting birds elsewhere. So nature is not always so cruel as we assume. Sometimes we simply don't give its 3 billion years of selection a chance.

I realize this is not always the desired "immediately required action" of our viewers but it is probably best for the eagles. It's why the MOE (Ministry of Environment) has these regulations. And that must be our long-term goal.

David Hancock

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