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Bald eagle nesting update: We have confirmed eaglets in our second nest

A pair of bald eagles sits in its nest while an eaglet pops its head up.
We are monitoring four bald eagle nests and so far we have confirmed at least one egg has hatched. (Photo courtesy of Joel Craig)

After keeping a watchful eye on four active bald eagle nests on Forest Preserve property, we now have been able to confirm at least two eaglets in the second nest we're monitoring.

The confirmation came on Wednesday afternoon from Jennifer Mathews, one of the regular contributors in our Will County Wildlife Facebook group. The adults had spent time feeding their offspring and eventually one of the eaglets popped its head up for a better view. In other photos, we were able to confirm a second fuzzy head. 

Based on their size and other data tracking from when the eggs were laid, we estimate the eaglets are approximately two weeks old. 

The confirmation at this nest comes about two weeks after we confirmed there were eaglets in another nest at a different Will County forest preserve property. 

Longtime volunteer Joel Craig was monitoring that nest when he saw the female change position and begin feeding an eaglet. While the eaglet wasn't visible, the adult clearly was feeding its offspring. 

The eagle was seen standing in the nest and tearing apart some flesh, presumably from a fish, and then lowering her head to feed the eaglet. 

Once eggs hatch, it takes some time for the eaglest to become visible because these nests generally are 4 feet to 5 feet wide and 2 feet to 4 feet deep. They can also weigh up to 1,000 pounds. Nests are used year after year and require some maintenance prior to each nesting season. Eagles will usually keep building on the nest until it gets too big and it collapses, or the weight of it breaks the tree.

Bald eagles typically lay one to three eggs and one of the nests we're monitoring has produced 11 offspring since 2019. 

RELATED: WATCH 'THE BUZZ' TO LEARN ABOUT BALD EAGLE NEST MONITORING

This year's new arrivals will further increase the local eagle population because they won't stray too far from home. Craig said that an increasing number of immature bald eagles in the winter indicates the ones we're seeing now are residents and not migrants. It's also evidence that we have good, clean water and a healthy fish population to support them year-round.

"To see eagles rebound like they have in this area in the past 10 years has been pretty exciting," Craig said. "To be threatened and endangered when I was a kid to what we’re seeing now, it's really a population explosion in our area over the past few years.

"They're just such majestic birds, it's hard not to be in awe of them," he said. "To continue to watch the nests over the years has been fascinating."

It's important to note that eagles and their nests are federally protected and human interference could cause the eagles to abandon their nests and their eggs. The National Audubon Society recommends being at least 330 feet away from a nest. That's about the length of a football field. In order to protect these birds, we never publicly disclose nesting locations. If you should come across a nest, be sure to keep your distance.

Here's a view of two of the bald eaglets that hatched last year: 

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