An eagle overlooking Roberts Bay in Sidney is caring for three eaglets and one Red-Tailed hawk in its large nest. (Steven Heywood/News staff)

Birders a-twitter over Sidney-area eagles caring for a guest in their nest

Eagles in Sidney appear to be feeding a Red-Tailed hawk chick, setting of wild speculation as to why

An unusual pairing is being watched closely by wildlife experts and enthusiasts alike at the end of a treed lane in Sidney.

A large eagles’ nest at the end of Third Street overlooking Shoal Harbour, is the home to three eaglets. And while that in itself is somewhat unusual, it’s the guest in the nest that has birders all a-twitter.

The eagles have been feeding and taking care of Red-Tailed hawk chicks. At first there were two, but observers are saying now there is only the one left. David Hancock, an eagle specialist who started the Hancock Wildlife Foundation and who operates live-streaming Eagle Cams in some 400 locations, says what is rare, is the eagles are raising so many young.

“What is rare here is the fact the eagles are not only raising three young (of their own) … this pair is a consistent three-chick pair,” he said. “The unusual thing this year is (the nest) had two Red-Tailed hawk chicks in it. But now it only has one.”

Hancock said the chicks were “probably stolen” as a food source for the eagles from a nearby hawk’s nest.

“And then the whole behaviour changes,” he continued. “It’s now in a nest where you don’t kill hooked-beak things that squawk and beg for food. You kill other things to feed the hooked-beak thing.”

However, the little hawk is apparently living a charmed life. Hancock added the young eagles could turn on the remaining guest.

“They certainly could. One quick jab aggressively, which they often are with each other, could do a little Red-Tail in hawk in. He’s lived a charmed life.”

He said he is not sure what happened to the second hawk chick that others described as being in the nest earlier.

Hancock added eagles and hawks are normally competitors for food sources and territory in the wild — but not overly so.

“And good wishes for this little rascal. We all wish him well,” Hancock said. “He’s got some other, bigger challenges to face coming up … he’s grown up with eagles. Is he going to think they are his buddies? The next eagle he encounters if he makes it off the nest isn’t likely going to think the same way, unfortunately.”

There have been a variety of people coming by to see the nest, including Victoria’s Sandra Jacobsen.

“I couldn’t pass this up,” she said I really didn’t think I’d get the chance to see the little guy. But I thought I’m going to wait here until he gets up, and he did. Just a great little guy. Terribly exciting.”

 

Sandra Jacobsen from Victoria rests on the back of her car as she observes the eagles’ nest. She said she had to come to Sidney to see the eagles and the baby hawk. (Steven Heywood/News staff)