There is a new female Bald Eagle in the Duke Farms nest. If you’ve been counting, this is the third female to occupy the nest at Duke Farms in Hillsborough, New Jersey. Our nearly 20-year-old male, resident serial monogamist Bald Eagle has sired over 25 bald eagle chicks since the nest creation in 2004.
Over the past few weeks, the Bald Eagles have spent more time on the nest, providing viewers with the opportunity to observe the finer details of the birds. During the detailed viewing, we received a few observations describing a new female on the nest. This third, new female somehow replaced the second female at the end of the 2019 nesting season, possibly in mid-September.
This was deduced through the examination of the irises of the females. In the images below, you can see that the second female has no streaks in its iris. The third (new) female has a very small streak in her iris at the four o'clock mark.
Other observations include differences in nest behavior. The new female is particularly obsessed with adding sticks to the nest and started nest rebuilding very soon after her arrival in September. The previous female did not start nest rebuilding until December or January, and often let the male do most of the work. In contrast, the new female seems to be more dominant in nest building. She often nips at the male’s legs and shoulders when he tries to add to the nest bole. (note: not to be confused with "bowl", the nest "bole" is the part of the nest where Eagles lay their eggs.)
With all these public observations, we contacted the State of New Jersey Bald Eagle Biologists, who confirmed that it is indeed a new female.
What happened to the second female? There is no conclusive video evidence on the Duke Farms eagle camera.
What it does mean is that we are in for an interesting Duke Farms Bald Eagle nesting season!
You can watch the camera live, 24 hours a day at www.dukefarms.org/eaglecam.
The Duke Farms Bald Eagle nest was first observed in 2004. Since its discovery, the nest relocated once after Superstorm Sandy, has had three different female adults, one male, and 25 offspring in the 15 years of nest existence. The Duke Farms Eagle Cam has been viewed over 12 million times since 2008.