But that afternoon, a younger male eagle showed up at the nest. From the eagle cam video, birdwatchers could see he had cuts on his talons, which experts said might be evidence he was in a fight, perhaps with Justice. Avid birdwatchers said they haven’t seen Justice since Saturday afternoon, when the younger eagle came to the nest.
Liberty and Justice have called the nest home since 2004. Liberty on Tuesday laid an egg that’s expected to hatch in the middle of March.
Experts said they thought Justice would come back by now and are a bit concerned.
On Thursday, officials with the Earth Conservation Corps posted a Facebook message asking for help in finding Justice. It read, “CALLING ALL BIRDWATCHERS" and explained he had gone missing.
If the two male birds did fight, Justice might have left the area or could be injured, experts said.
“He could be just rejuvenating after a fight and being chased off,” said Tommy Lawrence, managing director at the Earth Conservation Corps, which monitors the eagles. He said it’s not uncommon for bald eagles to be temporarily chased off by others.
Still, bald eagles don’t leave the nest often when they have eggs to hatch. Experts emphasized that it’s important Justice come back to the nest to do his “crucial job of catching fish and bringing them for his mate and hatchling” while Liberty incubates the eggs.
Since his disappearance, the younger male eagle has brought food to Liberty. She has left the nest for short periods to get food for herself.
But there is worry that the new eagle -- dubbed “M1” or “Aaron Burrd" -- could cause other troubles.
“Because it’s not his egg, he would likely destroy it by eating it or cracking it," Lawrence said. Experts said they are hopeful that he won’t, given that he has been alone with the egg for short stretches and hasn’t harmed it.
Like other mothers, animal and human, Liberty has been protecting her offspring and chasing off the new male when possible, the experts said. On Wednesday, she chased him off again, according to avid birdwatchers who saw it on the eagle cam.
It isn’t the first time an eagle’s gone missing.
Last year, another pair of bald eagles -- Mr. President and First Lady, who have a nest at the U.S. National Arboretum in Northeast -- had a few days apart during the mating and hatching season.
A new female showed up at their nest and was “mating with Mr. President,” according to experts. But First Lady “came back and chased her off," Lawrence said. First Lady left for about three days, and wildlife experts said they were never able to determine where she went. They also have a camera recording their moves.
Bald eagles in the region have made a comeback. In the 1990s, volunteers from the Earth Conservation Corps worked with wildlife experts to relocate nests in Wisconsin to the arboretum in Northeast Washington. Those eaglets were let go in the D.C. area, and since then, bald eagles have stayed and reproduced.
Anyone who thinks they’ve spotted the missing eagle should email firstname.lastname@example.org.