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Thursday, April 16, 2020

Standley bald eagles encounter drama, tragedy

Standley bald eagles encounter drama, tragedy

The Standley bald eagles have been experiencing dark times in recent weeks since a newcomer eagle has decided she is willing to do what it takes to get a new mate, new territory or both. On Monday, April 6, Standley bald eagle observers were shocked to see an intruding eagle, known as a “floater,” attack the nest and violently fight with both eagles, taking the battle to the ground.

The eagles, fondly known as Mom and Dad, defended their territory and the three eggs in the nest as best they could. Mom was the floater’s main opponent and she has been missing since the fight. This has left Dad at the nest, defending the territory from the floater and dutifully incubating his eggs.

Over the course of 10 days, we have watched Dad balance responsibilities of a single parent, an eaglet hatch on Easter morning and the same eaglet succumb to frigid temperatures two days later. At this point, Mom has not been found, and the floater continues to court Dad in hopes he will accept her. It has been a tumultuous time, but people all over the world watching the live eagle camera have formed a tight knit bond over their love for nature. What’s to come is up in the air as only time will tell.

Who is the other eagle? She is likely a female eagle based on size who wants this territory or Dad as a mate.

Why refer to her has the floater and not the intruder? “Floater” is common vernacular for single bald eagles. Using the term “intruder” can have a negative connotation and the floater is simply acting on instinct to survive.

How can you tell the floater apart from Mom and Dad? Female eagles are larger than males. The floater is larger than both Mom and Dad and has dark coloration around her eyes. Mom has ruffled head feathers and a squinty left eye. Dad has sleeker feathers and is smaller in stature.

Where did Mom go? She sustained serious injuries and is likely recuperating alone. It’s probable that she will not return to their nest site for some time.

What has Standley Lake and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) done to locate Mom? After the attack park staff and CPW searched for hours to locate Mom. She was not found and approaching the nest any closer is dangerous. We are now to remain out of the eagle area until further notice for the safety of all the eagles involved in this situation.

Can we intervene? No. We are likely experiencing this situation because of human intervention. The floater may have lost her nesting site, a clutch of eggs or a mate and humans are often the root cause of these situations. We run the risk of putting Dad in the floater’s situation since he may abandon the nest permanently.

There have been other eagles spotted in the vicinity, could these be Mom? Maybe, but we have no clear way to identify her until she returns to the nest.

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