Number of active eagle nests in Will County forest preserves climbs to four

A fourth active eagle nest has been detected in the Forest Preserve District of Will County this winter, one more than in previous years, and all four have nesting eagle pairs that are incubating eggs.

“This is the first time we’ve had four active nests actually on preserve property,” said Joel Craig, a Will County Audubon member who also is a Forest Preserve volunteer. “Our newest nest is a replacement for one that collapsed last fall across the river from a preserve. This new nest is also the largest one at 8 feet deep from bottom to top.”

Egg incubation has been detected at different times in the nests, so hatchlings should arrive at different times as well, he added.

“Since eagle eggs have an average 35-day incubation period, we’ll begin watching for signs of feeding activity beginning around March 23 for the first nest, and about a week later for the remaining three,” Craig said.

Becky Blankenship, the Forest Preserve’s wildlife ecologist, said it’s wonderful that eagles are making their homes in the preserves.

“Many of our preserves help protect waterways, which are important hunting grounds for these birds,” she said.

Blankenship said it’s clear that the eagles are finding suitable nesting habitat in the preserves, and it will be exciting to see how many of the eggs hatch. All Forest Preserve eagle nests are monitored by staff and trusted volunteers.

“And we submit all of the nest data including nest building/repairs, first date observed incubating, hatch date estimates, and number of eaglets to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service so they can keep tabs on the overall population,” Blankenship said.

Bald eagle nests typically measure 4 feet to 5 feet wide and 2 feet to 4 feet deep and can weigh up to 1,000 pounds. Nests are used year after year and require some maintenance prior to each nesting season. Eagles will usually keep building on the nest until it gets too big and it collapses, or the weight of it breaks the tree.

Bald eagles typically lay one to three eggs. One of the Forest Preserve nests being monitored has produced 11 offspring since 2019.

Eagle nest locations are not revealed to protect the birds. Eagles and their nests are federally protected, and human interference could cause the eagles to abandon their nests and their eggs. The National Audubon Society recommends being at least 330 feet away from a nest. That’s about the length of a football field.