The bald eagle “Justice” returned to his nest on Feb. 27, about two weeks after leaving only to find that his partner, “Liberty,” was gone.
He was last seen after mating with Liberty on Feb. 9, leaving her alone with two eggs.
Tommy Lawrence, managing director of the Earth Conservation Corps, which helps to maintain a live stream of the eagle nest high above the D.C. Police Academy property, said that hundreds of people reached out with pictures of bald eagles in the intervening weeks with the hopes that they had spotted Justice.
“While none of them were proven to be Justice, it is a great reminder to the DMV area that bald eagle populations are quickly coming back and inhabiting urban areas,” he told NBC Washington.
After Justice left, Liberty laid one egg on Feb. 12 and one egg on Feb. 16. Several males tried to approach the nest while Justice was gone but Liberty rebuffed them.
However, after it appeared that the eggs weren’t viable, Liberty eventually mated with a new male, an eagle dubbed “M2.” The pair have been using the nest and M2 spent a night there recently.
Justice and Liberty had been together for 14 years and had hatched 22 eaglets together.
According to Lawrence, the situation will likely lead to a showdown between Justice and M2.
“Now it is time to wait and see what unfolds with Liberty & M2,” the Earth Conservation Corps told Facebook followers on Wednesday after Justice appeared.
People on Facebook said they were riveted by the drama.
It is with great pleasure that we can announce, that Justice has returned! As of 2:30PM, Justice was seen visiting the…
“I am SO HAPPY that Justice is okay and he’s back home. I’m sure he has quite a story to tell. At the same time I am SO SAD for him. No Liberty and no eggs. I’m also scared. I don’t want to see any more eagles get hurt if he runs into Liberty’s fill-in guy, M2. Not good,” one user said.
“This is great news. When battling with a younger male and losing that battle, the eagle tends to leave the area to hide his head in shame. He eventually returns home after his wounds are healed. It’s true that people were saying he was gone for good however I prayed and remained positive that he would return,” said another.
“What??? OMG, can’t wait to see what will happen with Liberty. Let’s hope she takes him back,” said another.
“So very happy he’s back … but just when I was beginning to like M2 and accept him as Liberty’s new mate. What will happen now? These eagles are really captivating me. Don’t want to see any of them get hurt,” added another.
“This is better than watching soap operas,” said another.
While the number of bald eagles in America declined seriously during the first two-thirds of the 20th century due to shooting and pesticides, the population has largely recovered after being granted full legal protection and the banning of major pesticides such as DDT.
The birds live on coasts, and along rivers and large lakes, according to the Audubon Society, usually close to water.
The birds often feed on carrion, including dead fish, but sometimes hunt live animals such as other birds or mammals like muskrats.
The birds usually breed for the first time at 4 or 5 years old and may mate for life. Nests are typically in a tree and are built using sticks and lined with finer materials.
Eggs, typically two at a time but sometimes one or three, are incubated by both parents for 34 to 36 days. After hatching, young eagles stay with parents for months before flying out on their own.