CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Savannah and Derek are courting again. It happens every year this time of year in the eagle aviary at Carolina Raptor Center.
They practically ignore each other all year long until the cold of winter sparks something in their eagle brains that makes them warm up again to one another. Eagles mate for life and pairs may share a territory in the wild, but most raptors like to be by themselves. Whether in captivity or in the wild, mating pairs get together this time of year, lay and sit on eggs and then go back to a more solitary existence after the eaglets leave the nest in late spring.
Eagle mating behavior includes "The male offering the female a piece of food or helping her build the nest by bringing her sticks,” says Carolina Raptor Center Eagle Expert Mathias Engelmann. “You should be able to see this behavior very soon in the eagle aviary.”
Savannah and Derek successfully produced young for a number of years – four of their offspring have been released. During this time of year in the wild, the “single” male (approximately 4-5 years old) will be looking for a mate -- showing off to new females with aerial displays and behaviors designed to attract attention. Pairs have been seen whirling through the air with talons locked. This could be the way that they court each other.
If you were among the thousands of people who watched the EagleCam last year, you will have seen Savannah and Derek building their nest and trading shifts to sit on the three eggs that Savannah laid. (An eagle egg is about 1 ½ the size of a chicken egg and tapered at both ends.) In 2010, two chicks hatched, and one survived to be released into the wild.
The eagle Noah was released last year in early May. She was equipped with a tracking device, but has not been heard from since May 17 when she disappeared in a remote area of Virginia with spotty cell phone coverage. The staff at Carolina Raptor Center still checks tracking device data weekly to see if she will reappear.
Noah was named for Lance Corporal Noah Pier who lost his life defending our freedom in Afghanistan around the same time that the eaglet was hatched in February 2010.