In early January, Brian Hess, the state wildlife biologist in charge of monitoring Connecticut’s bald eagles met with a small team of LH faculty/staff to assess a pair of eagle who have decided to take up residence at 200 High Street. He confirmed that the pair are likely 4-5 year-old birds and are first-time nesters looking to establish a territory. They are like newlyweds!
Based on the size and condition of the nest, he suspects that they are engaged in territorial and bond-pair strengthening behaviors. What does this mean? It means it is unlikely that they will complete the nesting season successfully (75% of first-time nests fail) BUT we should continue to monitor the birds and the nest throughout the season (Jan through mid-April) just in case and report our observations to DEEP. Typical behaviors we can expect to see are mating flights, territorial fights with other birds of prey, nest-building, and mock incubation (meaning the female lays eggs but they are not viable).
Nest building will continue through mid-February to mid-March followed by incubation during the month of March. During incubation, one parent or the other will remain in the nest 24/7 and will be crouched down low in the nest – this keeps the eggs warm. Should the eggs hatch, the parent birds’ behavior changes – they remain upright and alert in the nest and the hunting parent begins bringing food back to the nest. You can count the number of hatched chicks by watching the bobbing head of the nesting parent (the number of head-bobs indicates the number of chicks being fed). Any hatched chicks will fledge out of the nest by mid-April or early-May. If the birds are comfortable in their newly established territory, it is highly likely that they will return next season and successfully fledge 1-3 chicks.
Because the birds arrived on campus during the late spring, early-summer, they have had the chance to acclimate to the school environment so there is no need to change our everyday behavior or activities, including using the softball field for practice and games.
Regardless of the success of the nest, we have become the 65th recognized bald eagle territory in CT! This is really exciting because the bald eagle was extirpated in CT by the 1950’s and did not return to CT until 1992. The bald eagle is currently listed as a threatened species in both the state and the nation.
Note: For the safety of our student body and the eagle family, the general public is advised to take photos from outside the school gate or from Jepsen Drive.