“Supermom” defies odds and raises eaglet to fledging

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May 11th, 2009

A female bald eagle in Arizona has defied the odds and successfully raised her offspring to fledging: a considerable feat for a single parent in these tough times.

Bald eagles normally raise their young as a team, with parents taking turns foraging for food and protecting the young in the nest. Young eaglets left in a nest alone are susceptible to both temperature extremes and predators.

But, in this case, the male eagle disappeared days after the nestling hatched. His fate is still unknown.

Bald Eagle eaglet Nestwatchers assigned to monitor the nest on the lower Salt River noted the female assuming all of the parenting duties in the absence of a male. The decision was made to provide supplemental food along the river’s edge to help insure the survival of the young bird and prevent abandonment of the nest and hatchling. Despite the supplemental feeding efforts, the female proved to be effective in providing for herself and rarely took advantage of the supplied fish, perhaps due to the availability of trout from the winter stocking.

“We’ve been keeping a close eye on this nest and we’re excited that all of our management efforts are paying off,” says Kenneth Jacobson, bald eagle management coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “We have never documented a single adult bald eagle successfully raise their young from such an early age. This female eagle is deserving of the title ‘Supermom.’”

Fledging, a nestling’s first flight, is considered a significant milestone for a young bird, although the adult will continue to provide food and protection for another two months on average while training the young eagle to survive on its own.

Arizona expects to have nearly 50 breeding pairs of bald eagles this year and hopes to match or exceed the 2008 record year of 53 eaglets surviving to make their first flight.

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