“Miracles Do Happen!” Southwest Florida Eaglet Returns To Nest After Agonizing 5-Day Absence

Harriet and M15’s oldest eaglet, E21, had fans fearing for the worst.

Southwest Florida Eagle Cam fans breathed a collective sigh of relief this afternoon. Even for a group of people used to intense drama, the past five days have been rough. 

E21, the oldest of Harriet's two eaglets, flew east from the famous Fort Myers nest on Friday afternoon and seemingly disappeared, leaving viewers to fear that the young bald eagle had met the same end as its mother. 

Southwest Florida Eagle Cam

Southwest Florida Eagle Cam

With E21 missing and single dad M15 spending more time away, E22 found itself alone in the nest for the first time. Then, early the next morning, an attack from a Great Horned Owl caused it to fall out. A forced fledge.

Fans looked on as E22 repeatedly tried and failed to make its way back home. Even a fresh fish from dad failed to lure the eaglet up to the nest that first day.

It eventually figured things out, developing a taste for exploration in the process. For the next few days, E22 kept viewers entertained with its antics, including a bath in the nearby pond and an attempt at playing with a large stick. M15 kept it fed by delivering food to wherever the day’s adventures led. 

All the while, E21 remained out of view of the cameras. Worried fans stayed hopeful that even though they couldn’t see it, M15 could, and he was keeping it fed.

Then, on Wednesday afternoon, five days since it was last seen on camera, E21 appeared back in the nest and snuggled up next to E22. 

“Miracles do happen! After nearly 5 days away from the nest area, E21 has returned and is looking strong/healthy!!” Southwest Florida Eagle Cam announced on Twitter.

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, young bald eagles usually remain in the vicinity of the nest for several weeks after fledging. They are dependent on their parents for food for approximately six weeks, at which point they typically disperse from the nesting territory. E21’s extended departure occurred just one day after fledging. 


Southern Living caught up with Pritchett McSpadden shortly after E21’s “miraculous” return. 


“It’s amazing!!” she said. “So many emotions when I saw it happen.” 

Mom Harriet, who began nesting on the Pritchett family property in 2006, was last seen on camera February 2. Her longtime mate M15 shocked the world by managing to raise E21 and E22 on his own.  

"The odds are not in his favor … but honestly, there's been success stories, so I think he's a rock star," Pritchett McSpadden told Fort Myers News-Press a week after Harriet’s disappearance. "I think he can do it, so I think I'm gonna stay positive and hope for the best."

A success story indeed!

Visit SWFLEagleCam.com to watch this precious family continue to defy the odds.  

During this precarious time, people are urged to stay far away from the nesting location. Having crowds of humans in the area can spook or deter the eagles from their normal behaviors causing undue stress and harm. 

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