Does nesting failure cause Bald Eagle to abandon nest in future years?
Out of concern that the Bald Eagles may not come back to nest next season after losing their nestling (if indeed that is what has happened), I queried Michelle Van Deventer of Florida FWC about whether there has been any research to shed light on this issue.
Michelle Van Deventer, Florida FWC Bald Eagle Coordinator wrote (March 29, 2012)
Generally, the rule is that successful nesting will increase the likelihood of nesting in the same location the following year but I’m not aware of any literature investigating the opposite angle of the question – e.g. likelihood of permanent nest abandonment due to loss of young.
My guess is the most important factor influencing whether or not they return to the nest next season is what caused the loss this season. For example, eagles are likely to abandon if Great Horned Owls move in. Nest parasites may also result in them constructing an alternate nest in the territory.
I am aware of plenty of situations where eagles have failed to fledge young during a breeding season, but still returned to the same nest the following season and started over.
I’m cc’ing Lynda White at Audubon Eagle Watch to see if she has any thoughts/insight. Good luck!
Lynda White, Eagle Coordinator for Florida Audubon responded (March 30):
Losing an eaglet this close to fledging should not affect the return of the pair in the fall.