Nebraska Ornithologists' Union


Date of this Version



McKinney, "Bald Eagles Nest at North Platte National Wildlife Refuge," from Nebraska Bird Review (September 1993) 61(3).


Copyright 1993 Nebraska Ornithologists' Union. Used by permission.


The refuge, located in Scotts Bluff County, played host during the summer of 1993 to one of only two bald-eagle nests in Nebraska, and three eaglets were reared to flight stage. A successful nest on the Middle Loup River in 1992 was the first bald-eagle nest to fledge in Nebraska in over 100 years. [See NBR 60 (2): 59. June 1992.]

The nest was discovered on April 2 while I was inspecting an abandoned heron/cormorant rookery. A startled adult bald eagle leaped out of one of the larger nests and began making several treetop-level passes and snapping its beak over the intruder. Staff members Felix and Lucy Koenig began to make casual observations of the area during routine, biweekly wildlife surveys. Lucy relocated the nest from afar, using a spotting scope, and witnessed the first hatchling on May 5.

A vantage point was selected 1/4 mile from the nest, and an observation blind was erected. During subsequent visits to the blind, a second and then a third (May 13) eaglet were confirmed by Mrs. Koenig. We knew that there would be anxious days ahead prior to any young leaving the nest; usually only one eaglet is produced from a successful nest. The biggest risks facing the three eaglets until flight stage would be sibling rivalry and high winds. It seemed unreasonably optimistic to expect all three eaglets to fledge.