The bald eagle nest featured on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ beloved EagleCam fell out of its tree Sunday morning, leading to the sudden death of a one-week-old eaglet and an outpouring of grief from followers.
Viewers of the EagleCam and the Minnesota DNR expressed heartbreak on social media.
“We wish we weren’t writing this post,” the Minnesota DNR said in its Sunday announcement confirming the eaglet’s death. Dozens of social media followers sent condolences and grieved the news.
The EagleCam livestream is still active for now. Officials have asked people to stay away from the physical nest site, noting that the land is protected under both state and federal law.
“This is an emotional time for all of us, but please refrain from visiting the nest (in person)” the Minnesota DNR said. “This was already a major disturbance for the eagles and many visitors will only cause more stress.”
A 20-year-old nest
The nest was over 20 years old and weighed more than 2,000 pounds at the time of the fall, according to the EagleCam’s website. Officials don’t know why exactly the nest fell, but pointed to heavy snow received during a Saturday blizzard as the most likely cause.
The snow “finally became too much weight for the branch to support,” the Minnesota DNR wrote in a Sunday update, adding that many other trees and branches in the area fell due to the heavy snow.
The EagleCam livestream captured the moment of the devastating fall, which occurred just before 8 a.m. on Sunday. In addition to snow resting on the nest, strong winds can be seen jostling the tree before the collapse.
Will another eagle nest be rebuilt?
The parents of the now-deceased eaglet continued to visit the tree that once held their nest on Monday, the Minnesota DNR said. The female was seen bringing a few sticks and the male returned with several fish.
The two eagles were also seen mating Monday morning. But the DNR said it’s “unlikely that they will lay another egg this year.”
In order to lay another egg, the couple would would have to rebuild the nest – which takes weeks – or find another nest, officials said.
Eagles “tend to build multiple nests in the same area for this exact reason,” the DNR said – but even if they have another nest, the Minnesota nesting season “is too short for them to have another brood.”
According to the EagleCam website, the eagle pair originally had two eggs this season – laid on Feb. 15 and Feb. 18. One of the eggs unfortunately broke on Feb. 21. The second one hatched on March 26.
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The Minnesota DNR will continue to monitor the site of the fallen nest. Officials said the DNR previously looked into installing a camera at another nest, and was in the process of narrowing down sites before Sunday’s fall.
“However, even if we do find an alternate nest to install a camera at, we have to wait until the nesting season is over so we don’t disturb the eagles,” the DNR wrote on Monday. “We care about this camera as much as you do. Rest assured, the EagleCam will return!”