Adopt a bald eagle nest, watch a bald eagle family grow
Fun BENW Volunteers' updates:
- First copulation of the year: January 28 -- we're not far off from having eggs in the nest!
- First eggs of the year: February 1 -- a different nest near Prairie du Sac has adults hunkered down in the nest, incubating between 1-3 eggs!
- Update (3/1/18): This puzzling nest appeared to incubate eggs in early February, then stopped, then went quiet, and now the pair has been observed copulating. It's hard to say if they actually had eggs and they failed, or if it was some weird practice-incubating behavior.
- More eggs in nests: mid-late February -- three pairs are currently incubating: two pairs on the north side of Madison, and one in the Sauk area.
- Only one nest in our group of 12 has had no eagle activity as of March 1, for reasons unknown.
- DNR fly-overs (airplane flights to each of the state's known bald eagle nests to determine whether nests are active) confirm that all but two nests are incubating eggs. One nest without eggs had visible repairs made to the nest, but perhaps the pair weren't successful in mating this year. The other pair may have moved their nest, and our volunteers have an idea of where the new one is but are yet to pinpoint its location and whether the pair is incubating.
- The first eaglets of the year: mid-late March. On April 6, volunteers observed the adults were perched on the edge of the nest feeding the young, which are still too small to be seen over the nest lip, but large enough to regulate their own body temperature. We estimate they hatched in mid-late March.
- After the two spring snow storms in April, one nest collapsed from the tree killing the two eaglets inside, and three other nests were abandoned likely due to young hatchlings unable to survive the cold.
- As of April 22, 9 nests have hatchlings in them and one nest continues to incubate!
- As of May 22, at least 15 eaglets are thriving in 10 nests!
About Bald Eagle Nest Watch
The bald eagle was pushed to the brink of extinction by the effects of the pesticide DDT and other dangers in the early 1970’s. There were only 100 nesting pairs left in the entire state of Wisconsin.
Since then, in one of the greatest conservation successes our country has seen, the population has rebounded. The banning of DDT and other restrictions has allowed the bald eagle to thrive once again. About the same time as the bald eagle was being delisted federally from the Endangered Species list in 2007, successfully fledged bald eagles took flight in Dane County. They have continued to thrive but they still face major threats such as lead poisoning and car and train collisions.
How does the program work?
Madison Audubon is launching a new citizen science program in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources that seeks to better understand how bald eagles are doing in Dane County. Participants adopt a bald eagle nest and visit it once per week for an hour each time, starting in February when adults begin repairing or building nests. During that hour, volunteers will observe and document the presence of young and what the family is doing. Weekly visits continue until the young fledge. All volunteers will attend a 2.5 hour training that involves an indoor, introductory component as well as a field component.
The WDNR conducts an activity flight in early spring to observe eggs and chicks in the nests, but does not have the staff or funding to return to the nests to know whether the young successfully fledge. With your help, we can answer the questions about bald eagle nest productivity in Dane County!
We're sorry, this program is full!
Notes and participant requirements:
- No experience is necessary! We will host a training session on January 20 to teach participants about bald eagle nesting and behavior around the nest, how to document observations and use the datasheet, and safety protocols.
- Volunteers will need to sign a data privacy form stating they won't share the nest location with individuals outside of the program. This is to protect the bald eagles.
- Participants should have their own transportation to the nest site as well as binoculars. A spotting scope is recommended (Madison Audubon can lend you a scope for the day).
- Each nest will ideally have two individuals (either working together or separately) assigned to it each season. This is to allow for cross-checking data and ensuring the nest still gets documented if one volunteer has to miss a week.
- Volunteers should be able to commit to most or every week of the program. It is perfectly reasonable to need to miss a week or two here or there, and that's ok! But we do ask that you be able to make weekly visits for most of the season.
We're sorry, this program is full!
So many of you have signed up for this new program that we've closed registration for this year. Please keep an eye on our social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and sign up for our email listserv (scroll to the very bottom of this page!) to receive updates on the program.
If you have any questions about the program, please feel welcome to contact either Drew or Brenna! We will respond to you as quickly as possible.
Drew Cashman - Madison Audubon volunteer & co-organizer
Brenna Marsicek - Madison Audubon director of communications & co-organizer
WANT MORE BALD EAGLE OBSERVATION FUN?
Check out our new citizen science-based field trip, Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Survey, based on Madison's Lake Mendota on January 6!
Banner photo by Arlene Koziol