Rare bald eagle trio raising chicks in one Illinois nest
Live webcams like the one at a wildlife refuge in Fulton, Illinois, document some of nature’s oddities — like threesome of two males and one female bald eagle successfully raising young.
Highly territorial, breeding bald eagle couples typically do not allow a third adult in on the breeding action. But the two males have been present at the Fulton nest since 2013, according to reports.
“Why and how the two males tolerate one another isn’t known, nor is the parentage of the chicks,” according to Audubon Magazine. “But the young are certainly benefiting from the extra set of eyes and talons keeping watch and taking care.”
The three adults hunt, nest-sit and call to one another for assistance for caring for their three eagle chicks this season.
The details are known because the nonprofit, Stewards of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge has had a live webcam on the nest.
The second male eagle showed up on the webcam in the fall of 2013 and became the female’s main partner, while the first male was not too attentive. But both males have stayed around even after they lost the female in 2017. There’s a new female and all three are currently tending to three eaglets.
Bald eagle trios have been documented before, according to Audubon, in Alaska in 1977, in Minnesota in 1983 and in California in 1992.
“In those cases, however, it was unclear whether all three eagles were biological parents, or if one was just a ‘nest helper,’” according to Audubon. Refuge biologists don’t know for sure whether both males in Fulton fathered eaglets in this case but, based on the mating they’ve observed, the odds are good.
Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-226-4691, [email protected] or via Twitter .