What Is Going On? | Hanover Eagles Blog #4 - 2023
February 22, 2023
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What's Going On? | Hanover Eagles Blog 2023
WRITTEN BY ZOEY GREENBERG AND KATE ALEXANDER-BARONE
The question we have been receiving the most lately is, "What's going on with the Hanover Eagles?" the answer is.... we don't know. It's been a very interesting season to watch but the events that have transpired are nothing we could ever expect. But we can break down recent events and pick apart what we've seen on the live cams.
Understandably, the events of the last few weeks have been tumultuous for the eagles involved, and for members of our viewing community, who take the success of the nest to heart. This time last year we had eggs in the nest, this year a very new nest evolution has begun which may result in a new dynamic for this Hanover, PA nest. For sentiment sake, watch this highlight of the egg laying events last year:
We are possibly witnessing a nest takeover by a different pair of eagles, but this isn't really "confirmed"... or rather, it's really difficult to confirm identification on the eagles we've seen so far. Takeovers occur with more frequency as a population of bald eagles grows — with more eagles vying for adequate nesting sites, antagonistic interactions surface between individuals, especially when there is a shortage of nest sites. Territorial aggression is normal in this context, and has been occurring within animal populations since the first forms of life took to the planet. While they can be difficult to watch, these events shed light on the ecological conditions of the eagles’ environment, and allow us to watch fascinating behaviors in real time.
The established Hanover pair, colloquially known as “Liberty and Freedom” by their human admirers, may have set up shop elsewhere or decided to skip breeding this year due to challengers. They could return to the Hanover nest next year to re-establish their claim. Or, one of them may still be involved in the Hanover nest this season. There's much uncertainty here, which can be frustrating for those invested in this nest. At the end of the day, we can take this as a educational opportunity, we are watching un-prescended events unfold. We could answer the question: What happens to an established eagle's nest when the area's eagle population is thriving. The one thing we can all hope for is a successful season, no matter what two eagles make that happen.
Ultimately, without blood testing it's very difficult (even for biologists) to tell female and male eagles apart. Read more about this in our blog about Male vs Female eagles. As a reminder, Pennsylvania Game Commission advises against naming the eagles, doing so does take away from the eagles inherent wild nature. In situations like this, the established naming of the Hanover eagle pair makes viewing the activity in the nest from an educational lens especially tricky. We can identify the eagles in the nest by physical identifiers, however this also poses complication. As eagles feathers molt yearly, dirt or blood can show up and make identification skewed. Eagle behavior can be another identifier, but again this is not a fail-safe identifier, as eagles certainly share instinctual behaviors. Pennsylvania Game Commission does not band the eagles.
So where does this leave us? We can point out behaviors seen on the nest, and we can theorize based on physical and behavioral identifiers which eagles we might be seeing in the nest. But we do not have certainty of the eagle's we're seeing in the nest, and the reality is: there never has been certainty. Eagles generally mate for life, however if a mate is injured or another eagle takes over the nest, the eagles will go on and continue to try and breed to ensure the success of their population; they act on instinct. What is interesting: We've seen many established nest pairs separate and find a new mate with a nest intruder. This has happened recently in the National Arboretum Eagle nest in partnership with American Eagle Foundation. It's important to always remember this is a wild eagle nest, anything can happen.
As the oft-quoted Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, the only constant is change.
In ecology, this rings true more often than we would like, and while contending with uncertainty is no walk in the park, we can certainly learn along the way. Let us allow our curiosity and care for these birds to guide our response to this intriguing situation. We are watching Hanover history in the making.
Interesting to note, that there are other (at least four known) established eagle nests in the immediate area. There are no live cameras in these nests, but they have been documented from the ground for many seasons. The Hanover nest is prime eagle real estate. It's secluded in the trees, providing protection. It's right by the lake providing a food source. The surrounding trees offer multiple perching spots, which means security for eagle parents to watch their eaglets from a distance.
Some of the Eagles We've Seen in Hanover Nest:
Male with dark feather on head
- Seen multiple times in the nest, first seen 1/23 or 1/24
- Identified as male because of mating behavior, seen mounting other eagle and mating in the nest
Male Injured Eye
2/18/23 Female(?) with beak and markings on either side of face
The serial maters (multiple sightings)
Sub Adults (Left and Right are two different eagles, the head feathers indicate the right sub-adult is slightly younger than the left)
Noteable Activity in the Nest:
|1/11/23||6:37am-6:55am||Two eagles perched at Lookout tree. The two eagles are very vocal towards one another, many times one eagle looks at the other and flaps feathers, then vocals between eachother, almost like the male is getting ready to mate but no mating actually occurs.|
|1/11/23||6:55-7:13am||Both Eagles Visit Nest. Both eagles enter nest and do a little pecking at eachother (very similar to F&L behavior) One eagle leaves the nest and the other begins to settle into bole of nest. The eagle that nessles into nest does have a darker streak on the inside (white) tail feathers|
|1/11/23||4:11pm||Two Eagles Two eagles enter nest; one with prey and they fight over the prey. The eagle that enters with prey has dark smuges on upper white tail feathers, the other eagle takes prey from this eagle. The eagle that takes the prey begins to consume the prey, this eagle has dark feather on top of head.|
|1/11/23||4:49pm||The eagle that left the nest returns, the eating eagle mantles over prey and lets out warning calls. The eagle who entered the nest begins to try and grab the prey, the eating eagle kicks that eagle out of the nest.|
View below Highlight from this activity. It's certainly possible this could be behavior between an established Hanover eagle and an intruding eagle.
View below Highlight of mating activity in the nest on 1/24/23
Interesting to note that the pair we saw in Hanover last year rarely mated in the nest and more frequently were spoted mating on the lookout tree.
The pair that mates in the nest was seen doing so on multiple occasions beginning on 1/22 and returning to copulate in nest on 2/6 and 2/18.
The male of this pair has the darker feather on its head. It's possible that this is a new male with the established Hanover female, or two new eagles.
As always, remember to view the activity in the nest as an educational opportunity. There are many who have watched this nest for many years and every year we have new viewers who join in on the viewing experience. For the classrooms who have viewed the Hanover nest for students to witness Eagle ecology from egg incubation to hatch, we do have several eagle nests on the HDOnTap network with clutch of eggs to watch.One of which is another Pennsylvania Game Commission nest in Pennsylvania's expansive Farm Country!
Raptor Ecology Specialist - Zoey Greenberg
HDOnTap Marketing and Communications - Kate Alexander-Barone
HISTORY OF THE HANOVER, PA BALD EAGLE LIVE CAMERAS
HDOnTap has been live streaming the Hanover, PA bald eagle nest since 2015.
HDOnTap, Comcast Business and the Pennsylvania Game Commission are all hoping for a successful 2023 Hanover nesting season.
The Hanover Eagle Live Cams are brought to you in partnership with Pennsylvania Game Commission and Comcast Business
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