Mission: To promote the appreciation of wildlife and increase harmony between humanity and nature.

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Sunday, July 8, 2018

Eaglet Troubles

This photo from last December shows Monty beginning a new nest on Montlake Cut. You can see more of the process in the earlier post, New Neighbors. Monty and and his mate, Marsha, completed the nest, laid eggs and for about two months they have been feeding and protecting their two new offspring. You can learn more about identifying Monty and Marsha in the post titled, 'Monty, Marsha and...'

A month ago the young were large enough to walk around the nest and curious enough to begin paying attention to the world beyond.

This may be the last photo I have of the whole family. I believe we are seeing Marsha with the young in the nest, while Monty is perched up on the branch to the left.

At this age, the young seemed a lot like toddlers squabbling with each other.

Luckily, they were fairly evenly matched and it did not appear like either one could or would dominate the other.

By the middle of June they were looking decidedly older. Their feathers appeared much darker and their behavior appeared a bit less childish.

The family resemblance was striking.

On July 5th, while I was out of town, Stephanie Martin sent the following message,

'Good morning. Couldn't reach Audubon and thought you might be able to respond. At the southeast entrance to the park along the Montlake Cut...there is a large juvenile eagle on the ground at the edge of the trees....There is a large branch down on the walkway...I didn't approach him. He was sitting with wings spread but watched me closely.'

I was without internet access and did not receive the message until later in the day. As I struggled to formulate a reply, I realized that one of the branches supporting the relatively new nest must have given way and at least one of the young had fallen. Having watched their development fairly closely I felt certain they were both about a month away from being able to fly.

One of my suggestions was to contact PAWs. A bit later, when I spoke with a federal wildlife agent he reinforced that PAWs was the appropriate licensed organization. Bud Anderson, our local renown raptor expert from Falcon Research Group, reinforced that without the appropriate federal permits and authorization no one else should go near the eagle.

Stephanie and I communicated back and forth. By the time Stephanie was able to get through to PAWs, she learned that the young eagle had already been picked up. Some kind soul, unknown to us, had contacted PAWS and instigated a timely response which may very well have saved the defenseless young eagle's life.

When I returned to town later in the day on Friday, it was too late to learn anything from PAWs regarding the young eagle who fell. My next concern was the status of the other eaglet. Was it injured? Was it still in the nest? Was there anything left of the nest? 

Looking from the north I could see that most of the nesting material was still in the tree, but certainly not in its previous location.

This photo from a similar angle in May allows us to compare how much of the nest has fallen.

Looking from the west, the second young eagle could be seen at the remains of the nest site. However, if you look through the leaves you can see that much of the nest is now in a vertical position and most likely functionally useless to the young bird.

The good news is there was enough horizontal space in the remnant of the nest for the young eagle to lay down and sleep.

 In addition, the parents are still tending to the safety of the remaining bird.

This close up shows how the nesting area has shrunk.

A kind neighbor suggested we call the two young eagles, Peanuts, primarily because the names Monty and Marsha could be thought of as, M&M. This idea caused me to start thinking of the remaining young eagle as Lucy and the one who fell as Charlie. 

Truthfully, I have no idea about the gender of the two young eagles. They could just as easily be Charlotte and Luke, as Charlie and Lucy.

In this photo from Friday, Lucy is exercising her wings. Hopefully, this is the beginning of her branching process. Branching is when a young eagle starts hopping and jumping from branch to branch while flapping their wings and gaining the strength to fly. As you can see from the gaps, her feathers still need a fair amount of additional growth.

In this photo, the pens of her flight feathers are still visible. Once her underwing coverts are fully developed, this attaching portion of the flight feathers will be totally hidden.

The coverts and the flight feathers will combine to make a uniformly smooth and functional wing surface. In this close up I noticed there are little pointed tips to her flight feathers. I suspect this may indicate that these feathers still need to add length, as well.

I found it very reassuring to see Monty up on a branch to the left of the nest watching out for Lucy. However, I did wonder if there would be enough space in the new abbreviated nest for the adults to set down food while they parsed and offered bite-sized pieces to Lucy.

On Saturday I was happy to see Marsha solved the problem. She held the body of a fish in a nearby crotch while she ripped off pieces and fed them to Lucy.

With the bulk of the feeding complete, Marsha offered Lucy the tail.

Sadly, when Lucy attempted to set the tail down there just wasn't much horizontal space available. They both watched as Lucy learned a lesson about gravity. 

As long as the last remaining portion of the nest stays in its original position, it looks like Lucy will have a fighting chance to fledge during the next month or so.

It would be interesting to know what Lucy and her parents, are thinking. Are they wondering where Charlie has gone? Do they miss him? Is Lucy suddenly lonely now that she is alone in the nest? Maybe she is just feeling free of her sibling pest.

In any case, we are left to wonder, what will happen to Charlie? So far no one from PAWs has had a chance to respond to my request for an update. PAWs is an all volunteer organization and I am sure they are totally swamped with all types of young injured birds who, fresh out of their nests, were quick to find trouble of one type or another. So I completely understand their not having time to respond to inquires which are not critical to a creature's well being.

However, this does leave us a bit up in the air. From the limited information we have, I'm hoping that Charlie will make a full recovery. When Stephanie saw him he was alert, so we know he survived the fall. Later, she mentioned seeing him with his wings slightly raised. I am hoping this implies his wings were unbroken. 

His stage of development was very similar to Lucy's so I expect he will still need a month or so to learn to fly even if he is relatively unharmed, possibly longer if healing is required. If he makes a full recovery I expect he will be released as close as possible to the nesting tree where he was picked up. That would certainly be exciting to watch.

If anyone has additional information about Charlie or his status, I am sure all of us would love to hear your updates. You can add them in the comments below or send them to me directly at: 

      ldhubbell@comcast .net

Thank you!

Have a great day on Union Bay...where nature lives in the city!


Update:                                      July 8th, 2018

A kind reader reported the following message from PAWs concerning the young eaglet, Charlie/Charlotte, who fell:

'The young eaglet was initially dehydrated and had some blood in his/her mouth. There was also concern about one leg but that issue has been resolved.'

This certainly sounds like good news!

Going Native:

Without a well-funded Environmental Protection Agency, it falls to each of us to be ever more vigilant in protecting our local environments. Native plants and trees encourage the largest diversity of lifeforms because of their long intertwined history with our local environment and native creatures. I have been told that even the microbes in the soil are native to each local landscape. My hope is that we can inspire ourselves, our neighbors and local businesses to respect native flora and to support native wildlife at every opportunity. I have learned that our most logical approach to native trees and plants (in order of priority) should be to:

1) Learn and leave established native flora undisturbed.
2) Remove invasive species and then wait to see if native plants begin to grow without assistance. (If natives plants start on their own, then these plants or trees are likely the most appropriate flora for the habitat.)
3) Scatter seeds from nearby native plants in a similar habitat.
4) If you feel you must add a new plant then select a native plant while considering how the plant fits with the specific habitat and understanding the plant's logical place in the normal succession of native plants.

My intention in my weekly post is to include at least one photo each week and visually challenge us to know the difference between native and non-native lifeforms.

Are these butterflies native to the Pacific Northwest? Are they the same species?


Scroll down for the answer


I believe they are both the same, native species. What I found particularly interesting is that the wings have similar but different patterns when viewed from the top versus the bottom. The upper surface of the wings are visible on the butterfly on the right, while the undersides are visible on the butterfly on the left. It was also interesting to note that they have four wings, two on each side.

By the way I happened across the helpful link from UW and thought you might enjoy it.


The Email Challenge:

Over the years I have had many readers tell me that Google is no longer sending them email announcements regarding my posts. Even more frustrating when they go to 're-sign-up', hoping that will enable them to once again start receiving the announcements, they get a message which says 'Sorry, you are already signed up.' Google has not responded to my requests for help with this issue. 

My functional work around is to setup my own email list and each week I manually send out a new post announcement. If you are experiencing the issue and would like to be added to my personal email list please send me an email requesting to be added. Thank you for your patience!

My email address is LDHubbell@comcast.net



  1. Best wishes for this young eagle family to not only be surviving this season but coming back next year to rebuild their nest. Thank you so much, Larry, for their photos and information. The remaining eaglet is so beautiful!

    1. You are welcome. Thank you for following along!

  2. I am grateful for the opportunity to follow the lives of Monty and Marsha, Charlie and Lucy. This is a true story of what it means to be an urban eagle. One human, at least, is praying for Charlie to make it into the wild, Lucy to survive her broken home, and Marsha and Monty to nest next year in Larry Hubbell's sights. :)

    1. Thank you! It is great to know how much you care about our local Bald Eagles and enjoy sharing in the knowledge of the challenges!

  3. A similar thing happened at a nest in the Portland area. The whole nest fell out of the tree. The young eagle ended up on the ground and the parents fed it there. They just stationed themselves directly above it. It survived and fledged from the ground, or from as high as it could climb. It was in a swampy brushy area of private land so couldn't be seen directly. It was seen later in the year flying in the area.

    1. That is amazing! Thank you for relating the story.