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Snowstorm Likely To Blame For Tragic End To Longstanding Eagle Nest

Due to the prolonged snowy winter, Minnesota's nesting season is too short for bald eagles to incubate eggs.

Throughout the long, snowy winter in Minnesota, curious onlookers tuned into EagleCam, a camera set up by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for the past decade to track the nesting season of bald eagles in an area around Minneapolis.

Beginning in December, the DNR issued periodic updates on the eagles and the nesting process. The first egg of the 2023 season was announced on Feb. 15, 2023, and a second egg was observed six days later. The camera showed the male and female eagles fortifying the nest with leaves and grass and taking turns incubating the eggs, working to keep the temperature at an optimal 99 degrees Fahrenheit, the DNR said. The snow also provided a layer of insulation for the eggs.

One of the eggs was unfortunately broken on Feb. 21, while the other hatched on March 27, producing an eaglet that would be “fiercely protected” by its parents.

But on April 1, just days after the chick was born, a powerful snowstorm with blizzard conditions impacted Minnesota, bringing several inches of snow to the southern portion of the state. Over a foot of snow was reported in Medina and Oakdale, Minnesota, both located just outside Minneapolis.

Minneapolis has recorded nearly 90 inches of snow so far this season, which is the third-heaviest amount on record for the city in a single season. To the north in Duluth, more than 130 inches of snow has fallen this season, a number that is good for the fourth-highest seasonal total on record.

Just before 8 a.m. CDT on April 2, the eagles’ nest fell out of the tree after the branch it was situated on snapped – likely due to the additional weight from the snow, according to the Minnesota DNR.

“The branch was dead, and the nest was over 20 years old and weighed over 2,000 pounds,” Minnesota DNR said on its website.

Several fallen trees and branches were reported in the area where the nest fell due to the snow. The adult eagles survived the collapse and were seen flying around the area afterward. However, the chick did not survive the fall.

While it’s unknown if the eagles will rebuild in the same area, the Minnesota DNR says it is unlikely the female eagle will lay another egg this year since northern bald eagles have a shorter nesting season.

“Even if they do have an alternate nest, Minnesota’s nesting season is simply too short for her to incubate another egg,” DNR officials said.

The nest was destroyed after it fell over 100 feet to the ground. MINNESOTA/DNR

Despite the loss of the nest, the DNR plans to continue leaving the EagleCam up. The department said they were already considering alternative camera locations but would not install a new camera until the nesting season was over.

“The pair may also rebuild in the same area. Eagles are loyal to their territory, and that area has many suitable spots to build a new nest,” the DNR said.

Officials also urged folks not to journey to the nesting location, saying that this was already a major disturbance for the eagles and more visitors will only add more stress. “The nest is on state land and is both State and Federally protected. Trespassing is not allowed in the area,” officials with the DNR said.

Produced in association with AccuWeather

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