Seventy-five feet up in a cottonwood tree in western Minnesota, two young bald eagles were raising their two eaglets. There is a webcam (solar powered, so not active at night). Watchers thrilled when the eggs hatched and the babies grew. They named the babies Harmon and Kirby. Then last Monday, eaglet Kirby fell out of the nest and was killed. (These are not the Decorah Eagles, who are in Iowa. All three eaglets in Decorah are thriving.)
Then the remaining eaglet, three-week old Harmon, somehow became entangled by something in the nesting material. (That's Harmon above. They put him down in the grass for just a moment while they readied the lift.) He struggled to free himself for almost two days. The raptor experts decided to intervene, and with a lift truck provided by the broadband company hosting the webcam, they went up to free him and discovered that he was in very bad shape. To save his little life, they took him from the nest and treated him at the University of Minnesota Raptor Center.
Here's the video explaining why they intervened:
Harmon did extremely well, so the experts decided to place him back in his nest yesterday. They put fish heads and tails into the nest to attract the parents, and to give them something to feed Harmon when they returned. Morning dawned, and little Harmon was still alone.
Here's the video of the rescue:
And here's the video of Harmon being returned to the nest (action starts at 2:00):
It was far from certain that these two young eagle parents would return. The mom has had only one brood, and this is the dad's first (I don't know what happened to the first dad eagle). Most of the time parents will return within 48 hours, but not always. Recently in Richmond, VA, the parents somehow were spooked and stayed away for four days. The researchers took the eagles down on the second day and fed them, then waited another two days for the parents finally to return.
The clock ticked. Harmon spent the first night alone. Nor did the parents return all day, although they were seen in the area. As comments on the MN Bound Facebook page became nastier and nastier, the MN Bound folks were on the ground watching the eagle parents moving closer to the nest. And at just after 7:00, this happened:
Harmon has become worldwide news in the last few days, so it's great to report such fantastic news!
There are those who think we shouldn't intervene in cases such as this. Let nature take it's course. When Harmon became tangled in his nest material, he struggled to free himself and was poked by branches. He unquestionably would have died without intervention. Who would allow this helpless creature to die when it was possible to save him? This is why we have wildlife rescue centers!
Now if all goes well, Harmon will grow up in his own nest, and will become a wild and free eagle. He will soar into the Minnesota skies in the next few months.
The webcam is solar powered, so is dark at night. At last sighting, Mom Eagle was in the nest tending quite delicately to Harmon. I think we can trust that she will be there tonight to give him shelter and warmth under her downy feathers.
Thank you Minnesota Bound and the University of Minnesota Raptor Center!
9:03 PM PT: Somebody got a video of Mom Eagle so sweetly cuddling her long-lost baby tonight. Don't tell me these creatures don't have emotions: