May 27, 2013

Squam Lake Eagles

By Iain Macleod

The pair of Bald Eagles that nest on Squam Lake have a little more time on their hands (wings?) this year, although not by choice. Sadly our pair’s nesting attempt failed during that awful day-long ice storm on April 12. The pair had refurbished their usual nest on Little Loon Island during the late winter and I first observed them sitting low in the nest (indicating that eggs had been laid) on March 20. Their nest is very open to the elements and I assume that the accumulating ice on her feathers forced the female to abandon the nest on April 12. On the 13th both adults were near the nest and the female tried incubating briefly but was clearly disturbed and quickly left. By the 15th, both were perched well away from the nest indicating that the eggs were no longer viable. The loss was too far into their breeding cycle for them to start over, so for 2013 there will be no chicks in the nest. The pair will remain around the lake defending their territory and may even visit the nest occasionally.

This pair of Bald Eagles first nested on Squam in 2003. Since then they have raised 18 chicks, including two broods of 3 chicks in 2011 and 2012. The male’s leg bands indicate that he was hatched in a nest at Quabbin Reservoir in Massachusetts in 1997, so is 15 years old. His mate’s leg bands indicate that she too was hatched at Quabbin (in a different nest) in 1999, so she is 13 years old.

When this pair started nesting at Squam, they were the first pair of eagles to do so in the Lakes Region in living memory. Now there are more than twelve pairs of eagles in the Lakes Region and more than 30 in the state. We assume that many of the 18 chicks that this pair has produced have returned and settled in the state. This was proved last year when an adult eagle breeding at a newly discovered nest on Lake Winnipesaukee in Alton was identified by its leg band as “Black 6/N.” That band was placed on the leg of a chick in the Squam nest on June 3, 2005 – the only chick ever banded at the Squam nest.

So, 2013 is an off year for our highly productive eagle pair, but, all else being well, they will breed again next year and continue to help repopulate the state with healthy eagle chicks.


Sallie Wolf said...

Great post, full of useful information. Good luck to this Eagle pair for a safe winter and successful breeding next year.

Sallie Wolf said...

Thanks for an informative, interesting post. I knew the Eagles had not bred successfully this year, and I did not know why. I didn't realize they started so early in the season and I didn't realize they mate for life, which seems to be implied by the account here. Good luck to this Eagle pair for a safe winter and successful breeding next season.