Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

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Do Male and Female Bald Eagles Migrate Together?
Contributed by Peter Nye

Do you think male or female eagles arrive back at their nest site first? Or, do you think they migrate together and arrive at the nest together? Many questions surround Bald Eagle migration, some involving male versus female behavior. Although we have only a couple of complete "stories" to go on, from the work we've done over the past decade or more it appears that males and females migrate back to their nest sites separately.

"We have tracked males back to their nest sites, and found that they arrive there first and alone, with the female following some days or week or more later. Why they may not travel together and why the male may generally get back to the nest site first (if that is indeed mostly the case), is unknown.

"From extensive work we have done here in New York during our eagle release program many years ago, we know that the males are typically the ones who establish the nesting territory in new territories. So, it is possible that the males want to "get back" to these prime nesting spots first, to "re-claim" and defend them, and wait for their female or another female. Perhaps the females are not in as big a hurry (or need) to get to a nesting site, as they are a valuable commodity and can "slip" into one pretty quickly.

"Another good question involves how "pairs" overwinter, which is a somewhat linked question to the migration one. During the winter, we can sometimes identify what are obviously breeding pairs hanging together, but I would have to say this is more the exception than the rule.

Again, birds we have had radio marked have, in most cases, spent their time on the wintering grounds alone, then migrating alone, as if they don't have a mate. We do not yet know if mated pairs usually over-winter together or even at the same wintering spots. As I said, some do, but it would seem that for most we cannot say this. We would have to capture both males and females from the same pair to find this out. So, as you can see, there is lots yet to learn about eagles, migration, mated-pairs, and, and, and !!!!!"


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