All about the Duke Farms Eagle Nest

Eagle in nest long view 2015-02-23 at 5.04.22 PM

An eagle’s eye view of the nest and its surroundings.

Written By: Jim Wright  for Duke Farms and Conserve Wildlife Foundation

Our 2015 nesting season story thus far:  The female Bald Eagle has laid two eggs this season, on 2/16-17/15 and 2/20/15. Incubation takes approx. 5 weeks. You can view the nest on streaming video here.

“One of the rarest of nests is that of the eagle, because the eagle is one of the rarest of birds.”
— Naturalist John Burroughs, from
In the Catskills, 1910.

New-Nest-11-30-12EDIT

The nest tree at Duke Farms

When you view The Duke Farms Bald Eagle nest on the Eagle Cam, you can’t truly appreciate what an engineering marvel it is.

The nest is immense, weighing hundreds of pounds. It’s made of sticks and other natural materials.

And it’s located more than 70 feet off the ground in a tree.

(Picture the top of an eight-story building — that’s how high it is.)

Thom Almendinger, Duke Farms’ Director of Natural Resources, discovered the first modern-day nest on the property a decade ago.

“I was in the floodplain tracking some radio-collared mammals for a research project and happened to walk underneath the tree where the nest was,” Thom says.

“Although the nest was very large, at first I was unsure who the builders may have been  — until an adult Bald Eagle peeked its white head out to give me a look.”

For Thom, the moment was exhilarating.

“As an ecologist who was working at protecting and restoring wildlife habitat at Duke Farms, it was a real sign that the property was improving so well that we ‘enticed’ the first recorded Bald Eagle nest in the Raritan River drainage in modern times,” Thom says.

Although the 70-mph-plus winds of Hurricane Sandy tore off the upper half of the nest tree in late October 2012 and destroyed the nest completely, the Duke Farms Bald Eagles were undaunteNew Nest 11-30-12(2)d. (The camera and camera tree were spared.)

In less than a month, they had built a new nest in a sycamore 100 feet away (the camera was relocated  the following fall.)

“Breeding season was fast approaching, and I think the pair knew instinctively that time was of the essence,” Thom says.

“That they chose to rebuild in virtually the same are also confirmed that this area is so favorable for them.”

Like the nest it replaced, this one is quite a feat. That’s especially true when you consider how the nest — six to seven feet in diameter and three feet from top to bottom — was built.

“Using just a beak and their feet, Bald Eagles are able to weave together sticks, grasses and even cornstalks to construct a large, stable nest that can last for years and weigh several hundred pounds,” says Thom.

Next week: Bald Eagle Nests: The Big Picture

Last Thursday: A Brief History of Bald Eagle Eggs in New Jersey.

Last Wednesday: All About Duke Farms’ Bald Eagle Eggs.

Two weeks ago: Bald Eagle basics.

Got a question or suggestion? E-mail Jim at wrightjamesb@gmail.com

Jim Wright writes “The Bird Watcher” columnist for The Record and the Herald-News. He is the author of four coffee-table books about wild places, and the deputy marsh warden of the Celery Farm Natural Area in Allendale, N.J.

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10 Responses to All about the Duke Farms Eagle Nest

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