- The Washington Times - Monday, April 10, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

George the bald eagle, apparently cowed by a female eagle who seriously injured his mate, the mother of his clutch, is neglecting the nest to take up with the interloper, an environmental official said yesterday.

“This morning, we stopped seeing signs of incubator feeding,” said Stephanie Spears, senior environmental specialist for the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project on the Capital Beltway. “We saw him flying around with the other bird. He’s starting to bond with the new eagle.”

George’s mate, Martha, was injured in a battle with the interloper on Wednesday, just as eggs in the nest that the two had built on the Maryland shore just south of the bridge abutment were expected to hatch. George and Martha, who were named by project workers, have hatched 15 eagles while nesting around the construction, according to the project’s Web site, www.wilsonbridge.com.

After construction workers saw the midair battle between Martha and the home-wrecking female, Miss Spears was called to take Martha to a rescue center in Newark, Del.

“She’s doing very well,” Miss Spears said. “She’s recovering very quickly.”

George at first took over the parenting duties in Martha’s absence, guarding the nest, getting down on the hatchlings to keep them warm and exhibiting “feeding behavior,” Miss Spears said.

But the pressure of being a single parent — having to feed the children, find food for himself and deal with the continued aggression of the interfering female — seem to have proved to be too much for George.

“Once she starts asserting dominance, males have to make a choice to submit to the new female or risk being attacked by the new female,” Miss Spears said.

Although wildlife officials last week were considering whether to move the eggs or chicks into a surrogate nest, Miss Spears said there do not appear to be any viable eggs or hatchlings to transplant.

Miss Spears said she would discuss with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources about what to do with the eagle when Martha is healed.

“We might release her back to the project [area] or release her somewhere else,” she said.

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