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As the Nest Turns: Heartbreak and New Beginnings with Decorah’s Most-Watched Eagles


It’s been a spring to remember for the feathered residents of the North and Fish Hatchery eagle nests in Decorah.

Four eaglets have hatched in total, with only three surviving. The death of one eaglet at Decorah North follows a tumultuous year at the nests, leaden with heartbreak, missing mates, new courtships and even a couple housing renovations.

The recent hatchings fall just a few days before the one-year anniversary of “Dad Decorah” being reported MIA from the Fish Hatchery nest, where he was last seen on April 18. It’s unusual for a male eagle to abandon a nest, and an active search for the male ended approximately a week after he was first reported missing.

The matriarch of the nest, best known as “Mom Decorah,” juggled life as a single mother for months, turning down not one, but two eagle suitors, before finally letting a third interested party into her nest last October. The presumably happy couple welcomed their second eaglet on Monday.

Things haven’t been much easier over at Decorah North, where the male eagle has taken a new female mate (“he probably attracted her with food,” says Amy Ries of the Raptor Resource Project) after the nest’s last female resident went missing. The pair welcomed two eaglets, one of which did not survive, last week.

It hasn't been the smoothest year for Decorah's nested residents, but with great pain, comes great opportunity for growth. The Decorah North nest saw some attractive, yet functional renovations, and the Raptor Resource Project, which manages the nests, continues to track the movement of the nest’s grown eagles and supports a culture of pride and conservation for Iowa’s eagle population.

On this episode of a Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe is joined by John Howe and Amy Ries of the Raptor Resource Project for a look inside the nest and updates on recent raptor research.

Katelyn Harrop is a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa