Eagle couple Jackie and Shadow return to nest in Big Bear

Eagle couple Jackie and Shadow return to nest in Big Bear

The popular bald eagle couple, Jackie and Shadow, are done vacationing and have returned to their nest in Big Bear. 

The return of the feathered couple was announced Tuesday by the nonprofit Friends of Big Bear Valley, which installed the Big Bear Bald Eagle Nest Cam to monitor the nest around the clock.

“We have spotted Jackie and Shadow hanging around the habitat more often the last several days,” the nonprofit posted on Facebook. “This afternoon it appeared Shadow decided to settle into the roost tree early. As we were watching him preen through the back door, a very sneaky Jackie quietly flew in through the front.”

After nearly a month, Jackie’s return was a welcomed sight to the nonprofit, which added that the eagle looked relaxed, refreshed, and ready to start a new season. 

The condition of the unkept nest needed tidying, with Jackie moving a few sticks and thinking that it may be a “two-eagle job,” the nonprofit stated.

“Instead of working on the nest, she headed over to the roost tree to join Shadow for a bit more preening before calling it a night,” the post said. 

Big Bear, located in the San Bernardino Mountains, is expecting its first subfreezing temperatures this weekend, which may signal the couple that summer vacation has come to an end, the nonprofit said.

“Jackie and Shadow generally start stopping by the nest more often in October to begin nestorations for the upcoming season,” the nonprofit posted.

More eggs?
Does the return of the birds to their love nest mean we might see another egg or two from the couple who’ve received national attention after the nest cam was installed?

In March, Jackie and Shadow abandoned their two eggs weeks after they were due to hatch in the family.

Since mid-January, the eagle couple took turns keeping the eggs warm through several storms, including a blizzard and historic snowfall in the mountain area.

Jackie delivered the couple’s first egg of the year on Jan. 11, high atop a 14-story Jeffrey pine tree. Her second egg came on Jan. 14.  

It’s uncertain why the eagle eggs didn’t hatch, said the nonprofit, which believes that they may have not fertilized, or stopped developing.

Eaglet joys, woes
In 2020 and 2021, Jackie’s clutches of eggs were either eaten by ravens or didn’t hatch.

Jackie’s and Shadow’s son, Cookie, died of apparent hypothermia during a storm on Memorial Day weekend 2019.

Simba successfully took flight and fledged in 2019.

Jackie and Shadow’s eaglet, Spirit, was born in March 2022 and was considered a miracle baby by many. In May 2022, Spirit climbed awkwardly up to a branch jutting out from the eagle family’s tree. The eagle stood for nearly a minute before spreading her wings and taking her first flight.

Breeding season
In most of California, the breeding season lasts from about January through July or August. One or two eggs, and occasionally three, are laid in late winter or early spring, and incubation lasts about 35 days, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

California's resident breeding pairs remain in California during winter, typically in the vicinity of their nesting areas, except when winter conditions are too severe and they must move to lower elevations.

Hundreds of migratory bald eagles from nesting areas in northwestern states and provinces spend the winter in California, arriving during fall and early winter. 

Wintering birds may remain until February or March, or even into April. In late winter, some adult bald eagles in California have already started nesting, while other eagles have not yet returned to their more nesting territories north or northeast. 

Some of the adults that winter here have been tracked to their nesting territories in north-central Canada 2,000 miles away.

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