With Famous Florida Bald Eagle Still Missing From Nest, Helpful New Female Swoops In

The newcomer even fed the growing eaglets!

It’s been exactly one month since Harriet disappeared from her Florida nest and somehow, despite the odds, the little feathered family she left behind continues to thrive.

The mama bald eagle of Southwest Florida Eagle Cam fame was last seen chasing intruders away, flying northwest from her Fort Myers nest on the afternoon of Thursday, February 2. Officials reportedly spent weeks searching the area for any signs of the beloved matriarch, but turned up nothing. At this point, Harriet is presumed dead. 

Bald Eaglets

Anja Edelman/Southwest Florida Eagle Cam

In her absence, Southwest Florida Eagle Cam fans have spent the last month anxiously watching her longtime mate, M15, care for their two eaglets on his own—feeding them and protecting them from opportunistic intruders. It’s uncommon for single eagle parents to succeed in raising their young, but M15 has proven himself an exceptional father to E21 and E22. 

But even super dads need a break sometimes. Fortunately, Mother Nature recently delivered him some respite (and perhaps a shot at romance) in the form of a female visitor. Fans watched from the edge of their seats as the female, going by the name R23-3, even attempted to feed the eaglets this week. 

“It wasn’t perfect and had some heated moments, but very cool to see,” Southwest Florida Eagle Cam wrote on Facebook alongside a video of the “surprising” interaction (available here).

R23-3 has actually been hanging around the nest for a while, biding her time and keeping watch over the eaglets at night while M15 gets some much-needed sleep. The milestone feeding moment happened a few days after M15 and R23-3 “attempted to bond.” 

“This is not a mating but possible sign of acceptance or dominance,” camera owners explained. “Only time will tell for our Eagle family!”

It’s too soon to tell for sure, but we’re hopeful that R23-3’s increased presence means that M15 has found love after the heartbreak of losing Harriet.

Harriet began nesting on Ginnie Pritchett McSpadden’s family property in 2006. The family set up a series of live cameras in 2012 so that millions of bird lovers could watch her and her then-mate Ozzie 24/7. Harriet took up with M15 shortly after Ozzie’s death in 2015. This year was Harriet and M15’s eighth together. The pair welcomed E21 and E22 in January.

Young bald eagles typically stay in the nest until they are about 12 weeks old. E21 and E22 are now approximately eight weeks old, and have started showing signs of independence, including self-feeding and even testing out their growing wings.  

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

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