It's been a rough year for the Decorah eagles.
The three eaglets recently fledged and left the next, but something was wrong.
“Usually they'll fly maybe to that tree there and then fly back to the nest,” said Bob Anderson, Director of the Raptor Resource Project in Decorah. “They're not doing that this year.”
When the eaglets left, they stayed away. Anderson said the problem is probably the overwhelming gnat infestation.
“The birds were just perpetually twitching,” he said. “I mean, I would have gone mad, I would have gone absolutely insane, and I think a lot of birds did. It might have even delayed their development a little bit because they were just so compromised, so stressed out.”
Anderson said even though the eaglets have reached their full size by the time they leave the nest, and have a wingspan of over 6 feet, they're still very vulnerable until one year of age.
“Maybe 50%, 40% survive the first year,” he said. “Once they survive the first year there's a much higher survivability.”
Now, two of the young birds are doing fine, but a third was found this week with a broken wing. Caretakers plan to repair it in surgery Friday, but its future is still very uncertain. Reintroducing the bird to the wild could take more than a year.
Anderson said there's a lesson here for eagle watchers.
“It's the ultimate reality show,” he said. “It show the wonder and the cruelty of nature. People saw the parents trying to keep eggs from freezing at 20 degrees below zero. They saw the parents trying to shelter the babies in driving snow and pouring rain … it's not Disney-fied. It's the real world. And for that reason, it shows life in its reality, and I think that's good.”