Monarch butterflies are beginning visit our milkweed plants, which always makes us happy.
Although milkweeds can be a trap for honeybees (https://amylaw.blog/2016/07/17/bees-and-butterflies/), they are required for Monarchs to feed and lay their eggs. Monarchs are in steep decline due to habitat loss and herbicide use, so we try to help them out when we can, by growing milkweeds in the odd corners of our yard.
It’s been almost a month since I last posted about the eagle chicks. A lot’s happened in that time.
Before they can live independently, the chicks need to learn how to eat on their own. The parents have brought the chicks a rabbit to eat, but then they left. The chicks have to figure out how to get into the carcass on their own.
With those razor-sharp beaks, you wouldn’t think that would be a problem, but it seems to have stymied them here.
They must have figured it out, because when I checked in a couple of hours later, the rabbit was pretty much eaten.
And so it went…they practiced flying, and hopping and tearing into prey…
…with an occasional tug on a sibling’s tail…
…until one day, there were no chicks in the nest.
As a violent spring storm crosses the country, the temperatures along the Front Range of Colorado are hovering in the low 40 degree range, and may dip below freezing tonight, and the drizzle we’ve had all day may turn to snow.
Yet hummingbirds have been in the area for a month. These little guys have to burn through a lot of energy to survive a cold wet storm like this.
Fill up, little hummer! We’ll keep it coming for you!
I don’t know for sure that this is the same bird, but as I pointed out last fall, it is a little unusual for them to be hunting in the semi-wooded suburbs.
And this bird is hunting. Another neighbor said that he came out to get the morning paper, and it was ripping up a rabbit it had caught in his front yard. He said it didn’t fly off as he approached, so he decided to get the paper later.
Today I heard a Crow burbling as it flew fast overhead. It joined another to harass the Red-tail, at times almost driving it into the ground.
This is one of the few times I have seen both the chicks go after the same morsel of food.
Notice that the unhatched egg is no longer visible. I don’t know if they carried off, or if it just finally got buried in nest material.
One of the things that has really surprised me has been the constant remodeling of the nest. Here the male (I think) has brought back a new branch. He hasn’t trimmed it yet, so it obscures the rear chick.
The adult bird really has no idea how big this branch is, and just smacked the chick in the foreground with it.
The chicks are beginning to stretch their wings.
As the chicks grow, they are becoming more active, and more curious. The chick in the background has been wrestling with the piece of wood, while the one in the foreground seems to be checking out the camera. Notice that their juvenile feathers are coming in.
It was a windy day in Platteville — the nest was rocking back and forth a fair amount. This chick very deliberately stood up, spread it’s feet, and started stretching it’s wings, evidently enjoying the feel of the wind going over them.
Mama eagle shades the chicks. At this point, they are 9 days old.
Up until this day, I hadn’t seen them out of the central depression, where the failed egg remains. But once they started exploring, they rambled all over.
I’m a little annoyed, because Mama eagle is in the way of a nice shot of the little ones. There were two cameras on the nest, but the bomb cyclone took out one of them, so I can’t switch for a better view.
Oh! I get it now! Mom providing shade for the chicks while they sleep. Now that I understand what she’s doing, I see that she actually shades them a lot.
You can see the remains of a fish at her feet. The failed egg is still in the nest, too.
She spends a lot of time feeding them.
The last couple of days, the male has been covering the chicks up with nest material. I have no idea why.
The male has covered the chicks up. The female finally took nesting material out of his beak and put it back where he had picked it up. Hah! I could practically hear her saying “Will you just stop?”
Not only have the chicks grown, they are beginning to lose their downy feathers, and their beaks and talons are turning from black to grey.
Above: The female has already fed the right hand chick the first half of the fish in her beak. A previous fish is in the left foreground.
I always thought that it was kinda a free-for-all at feeding time for birds — the chicks opened their beaks as wide as they could and the adult dropped food into the biggest mouth. That hasn’t been the case with the eagles — one chick is fed until it is full, then the other is fed. This could be a problem in lean years, but the male has kept the nest full of fish this year.
It took her 8 minutes to feed the second half of the fish to the left chick. By the time she finished, all that remains of the fish are under her talons — not much. She feeds them several times a day, not always as much, but a lot.