Instead of having two parents, these eaglets are being raised by a trio of adult eagles: two males and a female. The team was spotted living together in Fulton, Illinois along the Mississippi River. The bird family is quite unconventional, but it doesn’t mean they’re any less than other eagle families.
The eagles usually have one mate for life. Unless their partner dies early, the birds will find each other every year during mating season to start a new family. The courtship display that they do could ultimately result in their death, as the pair is required to lock talons and spiral towards the Earth together. In a display of athleticism and trust, the two eagles can discover whether or not they are fit to be together for life or have death part them forever.
"They all feed the babies. They all sit on the nest. They guard the babies. They take turns. It's actually very civilized." https://t.co/ZkUY08rbOc— CBC News (@CBCNews) April 20, 2019
The two males, in this case, share their second partner after the original mate of one of them was murdered by another eagle. The males are named Valor I and Valor II, and the female who laid the eggs is named Starr. Valor I hung around for the remainder of the year’s breeding season when his mate was killed in 2017. The pair courted Starr, and they both helped her raise her eaglets. The three eggs hatched this spring.
The unconventional family has earned admirers around the world. Stewards of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge set up a webcam in 2011 to follow the lives of the trio. Since then, animal lovers around the world had the opportunity to watch the three interact, much like watching reality television. Recently, animal enthusiasts had the pleasure of watching the trio raise their baby eaglets together.
While it may seem silly to get excited about a trio of eaglets, the birds revealed a lot about the species’ behaviour. Usually, birds opt to have one partner for life and raise chicks with the help of one other parent. However, as demonstrated by these three, it is now known that eagles will form their own versions of a new family. Especially for eagles who have lost their mate they’ve bonded with, joining a family is a good way of avoiding depression and loneliness.