Thursday, May 12, 2016

Decorah North News: DN3 has died

Eaglet DN3 died sometime yesterday. Why did DN3 die? While it didn't get nearly as much food as its larger siblings, it was still shooting poop yesterday, indicating that it had enough in its system to be pooping and excreting urates normally. However, DN3 may not have eaten yesterday and didn't eat much the day before that. It also didn't help that the weather was cold and damp. Mom and Dad North are brooding based on the older nestlings, who no longer require daylight brooding unless it is raining, snowing, or unusually cold. DN1 and DN2 have thermal down, but DN3's thermal down was just beginning to come in and it would have benefited from brooding.

We suspect there is no one cause for DN3's death. The six-day difference between DN3 and its oldest sibling resulted in insurmountable developmental differences, including dominance interactions that DN3 always lost given its much smaller size, a resulting lack of food, and a lack of brooding before it was really able to thermoregulate on its own. Had the weather been warmer, DN3 might have been able to survive even given the shortage of food and dominance interactions with the older two, but all three together were too much.

Are Mom and Dad North bad parents? No. Eagles don't fit neatly into our human ideas about what good parents are. The older two have been thriving under their care. From an eagle point of view, there is no purpose in caring for weaker young that are less likely to survive than healthy young. Personally, I would love to have seen DN3 survive and I was very hopeful up until yesterday afternoon. But as someone who loves and watches birds, I also need to accept that this is what they do. Humans don't make good parents for birds.

Why didn't we intervene? What happened at the North Nest is completely normal from an eagle perspective. It is well-documented that the youngest member of a three-nestling clutch can die, even though we haven't seen it in Decorah or Fort St. Vrain (eaglets have died because of hypothermia and illness at FSV, but those were very straightforward deaths and didn't involve just the youngest sibling). We haven't intervened in these situations in the past and will not moving forward.

Watching wild creatures doesn't give us ownership over them. The lives of 'our eagles' are truly their own and this was yet another example of how we differ from them. Juliet Lamb has some excellent perspective on the relationship between watchers and watched here: http://daily.jstor.org/wildlife-cams/


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50 comments:

Angie Dunshee said...
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Angie Dunshee said...

Thank you so much Amy.

Judy Shepps Battle said...

Very wise comments, Amy that I hope will help put 3's life and death in perspective and make us all better eagle observers.

I have seen sudden eaglet death at the SWFL nest twice (last year and the year before) that was the reverse of DNN situation. There, it was the dominant of the two eaglets that had been making life miserable for its younger sibling that suddenly perished from unknown causes.

The dominated sibling was feared to be unlikely to survive in both cases. And in both cases, each (E4 and E6) fledged and dispersed without incident. They were both magnificent juveniles when they left the area.

So, in my humble opinion, Momma Nature does't have a consistent pattern of which of her babies will survive in the nest/fledge stage. Just as there is no consistent picture (that I know of) to predict which eagles will survive life outside the nest.

This is why I admire the work of RRP so much. They manage to mix research with compassion while ever-respectful for Momma Nature.

Final word. For those who are using human criteria to judge the parenting skills of the DNN parents...we humans aren't much better at the task of raising our young. Just saying....

RIP DNN3. No one will forget you.

SC said...
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miss h. said...


thank you for the post...

Pat L said...

RIP little eaglet. I believe Heaven has a place for animals, You're soaring now.

Janet Simmons said...

Thank you for an intelligent and logical post. Eagles descended from kites approximately 36 million years ago. The behaviors and events we are seeing in the nests that are now equipped with cams are - give or take a few million years - 36 million years old.

Eagle parents are programmed to feed and care for their eaglets; they want to see their eagle genes survive. Eaglets have strong inborn survival instincts. The eldest and most dominant will establish itself at the top of the literal pecking order, bullying younger siblings to get all the food it wants and can hold in its crop. Only then are the other eaglets permitted to eat. Younger eaglets learn to be submissive and stealthy.

The eldest eaglet may be aggressive, but it is not "mean." Eagles do not have emotions the way people do and it is important not to anthropomorphize Eagle behavior and then subsequently "judge" it by human standards. The eldest eaglet is doing what it is programmed to do: survive. If this turns out to be a female, she is likely to be a fierce predator who will guard her own chicks with a ferocious spirit.

While intense sibling rivalry (aka "Cain and Abel" Syndrome)can be difficult to watch, it has been going on for 36 million years. And it is important to note that reputable academic studies opine that:
- only 2% of all 2-eaglet nests experience a sibling fratricide and
- only 3.8% of all 3-eaglet nests experience a sibling fratricide.

If an eaglet dies (because it was not viable, failed to thrive, sibling fratricide, got wet and chilled before the thermal down came in, etc.) a parent may bury it deeper in the nest (as was done here.) There is a difference between burying something and giving something a burial. The parent eagles may bury the dead eaglet to prevent it from attracting attention and drawing other raptors (such as owls) to the nest. And it is not unusual for the parents to dismember the dead eaglet in order to eat it or feed it to the surviving eaglets. The eaglet carcass represents a food source that does not require that the parents expend any energy, again - another survive and thrive technique.

We have loved watching the DN nest. Like so many others, we were enraptured by the almost comical and feisty little spirit DNN3 (aka Lil Bit) often displayed when trying to stand up to the much bigger and ferocious DNN1 (aka Godzilla). We will miss the ability to hope that all three would fledge, but have no reason to think that the remaining two will not do well in the coming weeks. In another 4 weeks when they are standing tall and weathering the rains on their own you won't be able to recognize DNN1 (AKA Godzilla) and DNN2 (Aka MiddleChild) as the awkward gray pre-teens they are now!

louise sylvester said...

Thank you RRP for all you do...if not for you we humans would not have the opportunity to watch the eagles way..we can only hope that the two surviving eaglets make it...they sure do look healthy enough..and yes,it was a cold rainy afternoon and no brooding the baby from Mom...but we do not know,but possibly Mom knew something we will never know..R.I.P. sweetness..I have many pics of you that I will keep forever in my memory..I am blessed to have had you in my viewing for the short time I did..PEACE

Cynthia (Iowa) said...

Thank you, Amy. We will miss this little fighter, but it appears he was not meant for this world. His spirit now flies free forevermore.

MidwestGolden said...
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MidwestGolden said...

Thank you Amy! Great post. As we move farther away from the farm and our interactions with wild creatures and we have our interactions with our pets that seem in tune with our emotions....it's easy to forget that animals are not humans....and their rules are totally different as is their reality. Thanks for the education

raven sanchez said...

This baby is in the spirit world now..as eagles do carry our prayers to our Father.it soars above the clouds and will return mighty and strong..rip babybird

Felix Nuts Tomcat said...

RIP DNN3. He now soars free and is warm and no longer hungry.

I do want the thank RRP for giving us a window into the lives of these birds and allowing us to learn about their lives.

It is all too easy for us as observers to try and attach human qualities to animals. These are eagles, not humans. It isn't the parents fault that DNN3 passed. Things beyond their control took the life of this eaglet.

Mr. Edith said...

Watching nature in the raw through a live web cam allows us to peak into wild animals lives...and deaths. It can be joyous and heartbreaking.

We humans with our wide-ranging emotions must always try to be aware of our human-centric emotions and attitudes.

While little DNN3 suffered from being picked on by DNN1, he/she also found comfort from its siblings too. Yesterday I watched as DNN3 purposefully moved itself underneath DNN2 and DNN1 to keep warm.

One wonders if this year's experience will teach the Decorah North eagles to delay incubation of the earlier laid eggs to increase the chance that the eggs will hatch closer together?

Sweet Eagle Dreams forever sweet little DNN3.

Sian Min said...

Human intervention would be a disservice to the eagles, unless the hazard is human-orgin (such as the Southwest Florida eaglet trapped in discarded fishing line). If humans rescue the weak, it will weaken the species going forward. Nature decides which are the weak. Weak or strong does not only imply physical attributes, but also mental ones. From a human perspective, DNN3's passing is sad because we empathise as a human. it is understandable and unavoidable, but if we're to claim we are the most highly evolved species, we must also accept the pain and responsibility that comes with reason. I support RRP.

Jane said...

Thank you for this, Amy. Both your post and the article you linked to (Why We Can't Turn Away from Wildlife Cams) are helpful in understanding both the eagles and ourselves! I so appreciate all that RRP does for raptors and the people who love them.

Azucar said...

thank you

Can't Touch This said...

Excellent blog and linked article. This was a tough thing to watch but still I am grateful for the opportunity to see eagles' lives up close. Books can only teach so much. There is so much more to learn about these beautiful birds

I feel sad for both DNN3 and for RRP. RRP has had both to witness this sad event, grieve and endure criticism and harsh comment.

I believe 3 is soaring somewhere with Decorah 4 and the others that were lost in years previous and I'll see them again someday.

Thank you RRP for all you do and I totally support you.

Nancy Hamilton said...

R.I.P. DNN3, I will never forget you and your spunk while you struggled to survive.

patis said...

I have feared for dnn3 forever and he just got stepped on and pecked on and couldn't keep up.. I will try not to be bitter ,but durn!!

Carl in SC said...

"Humans don't make good parents for birds."

Thank you for the amazing explanation. The quoted words above can't say it any better. I watch another eagle cam regularly, and if I had seen your words months ago, I would have "borrowed them" countless times. Very sorry for your loss.

Can't Touch This said...

Excellent blog and linked article. This was a tough thing to watch but still I am grateful for the opportunity to see eagles' lives up close. Books can only teach so much. There is so much more to learn about these beautiful birds

I feel sad for both DNN3 and for RRP. RRP has had both to witness this sad event, grieve and endure criticism and harsh comment.

I believe 3 is soaring somewhere with Decorah 4 and the others that were lost in years previous and I'll see them again someday.

Thank you RRP for all you do and I totally support you.

dulcimer diva said...

Can you tell us what happened to his little body?

Jeff and Misty said...

So sad :( When I was watching him/her yesterday and it was trying to take cover under its brother/sister and they kept pushing him/her away, I was praying for him/her!! It was cold yesterday and was trying to get warm. Sore high in animal heaven little eagle!! You deserve it :) <3

Kansas Teacher said...

Thank you for this post!

My gratitude and respect for all of you at RRP is strengthened as I see how this situation was handled, and how news and information was communicated for followers and viewers.

We do have our human emotions, but those just don't completely carry over to the eagle's nest. We were all hoping the best for that little eaglet, but nature took a different course this time. I imagine Bob A. happily welcoming little DNN3!

I continue to be so thankful for the view into the lives of these majestic eagles provided for us by RRP.
~Thank you!

Anne G said...

I am watching the live feed from the nest and it looks like the body of DNN3 is gone. Any idea of what happened to it? I know that you listed 3 possibilities....

Pat L said...

I'm looking at the live feed Anne G and the little body is still laying there. :-(

Arlene Zadora said...

Thanks Amy for your words about DNN3 (Lil Bit). Nature has a way of doing what's right even if we humans can't keep our emotions out of it. I was routing for # 3 to make it and I will miss seeing him or her grow up to be a magnificent bird like the parents. May # 3 soar above the clouds with his/her ancestors. Sorry for your loss RRP.

Thank you for the eagle cams and the work you do.

raven sanchez said...

Thank you RRP you do a wonderful job at bringing all this about..but as in any life horror goes with wonders. I do know sometimes siblings will push other siblings out of nest too.

Mila's Mom said...

Thank you for the kind and thorough explanation. I've said before that I have been away more often from DNN in the last few weeks because of the eaglets' interactions, but I also understand that these are not humans. Still . . . I seem to take the death of animals harder than with people. Thanks all for being here. Hugs to the entire community and to RRP, who makes all this wonderful, terrible majesty available. . .

neweaglefriend said...

Thanks to all for the helpful information and comfort. To DNN3: Nature's way, yes, nature's way to care for the many, but humans break her rule, and love the one, this little one. I am not ashamed to cry for you, and make my solemn vow: I. Will. Not. Forget. You.

stretch said...

Having the ability to watch nature like this is a lesson learned that we can't always control nature. It will take its own course. I understand this sites stand on not getting involved with the whole eagle relationship we are here to observe. Thank you Amy for the informed
explanation you provided.

raven sanchez said...

Beautiful thank you..this is how I feel

Edouard Ciccolini said...

Hello from France ! Beautiful nest and excellent blog -
For me , in this rather particular case , a human intervention would not have been shocking ... Just like the Eagle , the Man forms integral part of nature and the universe - Our actions and our non-actions are part of the universe - A nudge in the right direction in favour of this small eagle which was in great difficulty , would have simply made it possible the destiny of this eaglet to be different from what it was .....

Jen said...

This administration has passed a law that wind turbines can kill 4200 eagles without penalty. It seems we can choose to help one have a chance to survive . I think circumstances should be judged on an individual basis . I saw a video in Minnesota where they actually intervened removed Harmon from the nest nurtured him and replaced him back in the nest where Mom and Dad accepted him. Happy healthy family. My heart breaks for Bit. I think the world of eagles would continue .. If we had made the decision to at least extend a helping hand.....if their life is so easily deemed expendable ... What could it possibly hurt for Man to make a choice and help them have a fighting chance

Create Now said...

I don't know if you want to hear this but mom pulled the deceased eaglet aside and it became part of the food chain.

Create Now said...
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babe mae said...

Our hearts hurt because of the loss of this precious little one but, this blog helped so much to help us understand. We watched for days and feared for his life. Thank you for sharing. RIP little one.

WildlifeLove said...

I've seen conflicting comments about what happened to the deceased eaglet. Did it really become part of the food chain or did the other eagles push him out of the nest?

Pat L said...

Has anyone noticed any distinguishing features/marks to know which one is DN1 and which is DN2?

Bert Fuhr said...

I am confused by all the concern over DN3 dying of natural causes, but no sympathy for the fish, rabbits, snakes and other birds which are part of the Eagles diet. We clearly don't intervene in saving the lives in the food chain so shouldn't intervene when the predator suffers either.

Unknown said...

It amazes me how many humans justify this type of behavior with wildlife and yet not with humans. Did it ever occur to all of you that perhaps humans were once this way,you know survival of the fittest? Today humans go to great lengths to save their own lives and more importantly the lives of their children because we humans are more imoortant, right? How many sick, weak, premature babies do we go to great lengths to save and yet when it comes to this poor little bird we say "oh well, that's nature". We are all Gods creatures and I am sure that God looks upon us with total dismay when he sees how detached we have become. Someone mentioned we don't care that much about the critters that become food for the eagles but many of us do. There is a difference between killing to eat and killing for the sake of killing. It is a bully mentality at work here and if one of our own children was being bullied to death we would take great offense would we not? Honestly I simply do not understand the disconnect and detachment of humans. Pretty pathetic really.

linda ardizzone said...

I do agree with you.

linda ardizzone said...

We humans go to great lengths to save weak, premature and disabled human babies. To me there is little difference. Except for human arrogance that our babies are more important than theirs there is no reason to not try to save baby critters like this poor eaglet. Accepting the pain and suffering of other creatures when we cannot accept the pain and suffering of our own speaks to the huge detachment humans have when it comes to Gods other creatures.

linda ardizzone said...

We humans go to great lengths to save weak, premature and disabled human babies. To me there is little difference. Except for human arrogance that our babies are more important than theirs there is no reason to not try to save baby critters like this poor eaglet. Accepting the pain and suffering of other creatures when we cannot accept the pain and suffering of our own speaks to the huge detachment humans have when it comes to Gods other creatures.

linda ardizzone said...

I do agree with you.

linda ardizzone said...

It amazes me how many humans justify this type of behavior with wildlife and yet not with humans. Did it ever occur to all of you that perhaps humans were once this way,you know survival of the fittest? Today humans go to great lengths to save their own lives and more importantly the lives of their children because we humans are more imoortant, right? How many sick, weak, premature babies do we go to great lengths to save and yet when it comes to this poor little bird we say "oh well, that's nature". We are all Gods creatures and I am sure that God looks upon us with total dismay when he sees how detached we have become. Someone mentioned we don't care that much about the critters that become food for the eagles but many of us do. There is a difference between killing to eat and killing for the sake of killing. It is a bully mentality at work here and if one of our own children was being bullied to death we would take great offense would we not? Honestly I simply do not understand the disconnect and detachment of humans. Pretty pathetic really.

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