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The eagles hit - Welcome to the Hotel Grundy Center

May 1, 2016
Kevin Williams - Grundy County Conservation Director , Reinbeck Courier

A popular topic this late winter/early spring has been the bald eagle nest northeast of the secondary roads complex near Grundy Center.

First question was, "Is that really an eagle nest?" Initially, it was easy to see. It was this big "sore thumb" sticking out near the top of one of the cottonwoods in a clump along the fence line. Now that the buds are breaking and the leaves are beginning to pop, the nest is disappearing a bit but is still easy to spot.

If you want to get a look, I would suggest that you take T-37 North past the Rose Hill Cemetery (Holland bypass) and go to where the Pioneer Trail crosses the blacktop. If you pull off into the drive to the sandpit you can look east and see the nest.

Article Photos

Photo by Kevin Williams

Don't expect to see the eagle or eagles with your naked eye. I carry binoculars and a spotting scope in my truck. The last time I was out I could see an adult up in the nest. With the zoom on the camera I could see it, as well.

Next question everyone has is, "Are there eaglets?" Don't know but if the timing is anything similar to the Decorah nests (and it should) there could be. Because there are adults in the nest right now that indicates there are. An unsuccessful nest attempt would likely see them spending little time there now.

Another question I have gotten several times is if there can be an eagle cam placed to view the nest. I must admit it would be a cool idea and probably an expensive one. I did a little checking and found there to be no less than fifteen eagle cams active on the Internet for your viewing pleasure.

The fact that we have an eagle nest in Grundy County is a testament to how well the bald eagle recovery has done. When I came to Grundy County in 1980, there were so few eagles seen let alone nesting in Iowa that with confidence I would have said we will never see eagles nesting in Grundy County. In 2011 I was proved wrong and now again in 2016. Remarkable.

If I can't afford to give you an eagle cam, I can at least give you a brief overview of what has and is taking place there.

Let's assume the egg-laying commenced about late-February. The eggs are laid one at a time with two to four days separating them. Typically one to three eggs make up the clutch and incubation commences with the first egg so there is an older and younger eaglets in the nest. The 35 days of incubation duties are shared by both male and female, but it is the female who spends most of her time on the nest.

That means that there could be eaglets in the nest that are about three weeks old now. By three weeks they are 1 foot high and their feet and beaks are very nearly adult size! While on the nest with very young eaglets, parents move about with their talons balled into fists to avoid accidentally skewering their offspring.

Between four and five weeks, the birds are able to stand, at which time they can began tearing up their own food. At six weeks, the eaglets are very nearly as large as their parents. At eight weeks, the appetites of the young birds are at their greatest. While parents hunt almost continuous to feed them, back at the nest the eaglets are beginning to stretch their wings in response to gusts of wind and may even be lifted off their feet for short periods.

If you haven't made a trip to see the eagle nest yet, I would encourage you to do so!



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