On March 13th, Zoo Miami’s Ron Magill joined Wildlife Rescue of Dade County’s Lloyd Brown and Jemma Peterson to rescue a bald eagle chick that had fallen out of a nest which had been destroyed by a storm. After surgery to repair a broken wing and months of rehabilitation, the eaglet was successfully released back to the wild on August 21st.
The parents of this eaglet have been a bonded pair for over a decade. Unfortunately, they have had very limited success in raising chicks due in part to the instability of the nest site that they kept returning to year after year.
Believing that the bonded pair would once again return to the same tree, Ron and the Ron Magill Conservation Endowment, teamed up with Lloyd and Wildlife Rescue of Dade County to construct a stable platform in the nest tree close to the original location of the nest that was destroyed. The hope was that the adult birds would return to the tree and utilize the newly constructed platform to rebuild the nest that was destroyed by the storm. Thousands of dollars were also invested to install a high definition camera system that would allow any activity at the platform to be livestreamed online. This was a huge gamble because there was no guarantee that the adult pair would return to the tree, and if they did, that they would choose to build their nest on the platform. In fact, there was genuine concern that the newly installed platform would frighten them away from the tree completely.
Fortunately, the pair did return, and for several days, looked at the installed platform from adjacent branches but would not fly to it. Then, finally, they flew onto the platform and after inspecting it closely, were observed flying in with large branches as well as other types of vegetation to begin rebuilding their nest!! At first, they would be seen bringing in new materials with no apparent predictability, sometimes not returning to the nest for days at a time. Recently, the time spent at the nest is becoming more regular with both adult birds seen on the nest either by themselves or together, usually in the morning, almost on a daily basis. The hope is that as the female gets closer to laying, their time at the nest will continue to increase.
The ultimate hope and goal is for this pair to lay eggs, and then to successfully hatch and fledge chicks. The Ron Magill Conservation Endowment, through the Zoo Miami Foundation, is sponsoring the live streaming of this entire process to provide an intimate window into the very private world of these majestic raptors. Though there are many things that could go wrong, no matter what is observed on the cameras and how difficult it may be to watch, we cannot interfere in any way as we must let nature take its course. This is an incredibly unique opportunity to observe nature in real time, in a non-intrusive way.
Thanks to the collaboration between the Ron Magill Conservation Endowment and Wildlife Rescue of Dade County, the world can now go online for free and connect to the livestream of the nesting platform to watch in real time as this bonded pair of bald eagles continues to build their nest and hopefully goes on to lay eggs and successfully raise young to become the next generation of these majestic raptors.
Though it is hoped that this pair of eagles will be able to successfully raise offspring, it is important to note that nature can often be cruel. We want to warn viewers that we will have no influence or control over the behaviors of these birds and there are many things that can go wrong. The adults may, for unknown reasons, abandon the nest. They may lay eggs that never hatch or get predated on. If eggs do hatch, the hatchlings may not survive. Hatchlings may be aggressive towards each other in competition for food. The parents may bring back prey that viewers find disturbing and the feeding of that prey to the eaglets can be quite graphic.
With that said, there is an old saying that states, “In the end, we protect what we love, we love what we understand, and we understand what we are taught.” We hope that by creating this special connection to these amazing animals, viewers will better understand them, learn to love them, and want to protect them.