Three bald eagles, Valor I, Valor II (the fathers) and Starr (the mother) are raising eaglets together in their nest in Illinois, the Portland Press Herald reports. Stewards of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge host a live webcam of the eagle trio nest, who cooperatively raise their young birds together. Instances of trio parenting have only been documented three times over the past 42 years, the National Audubon Society said: in 1977 in Alaska, in 1983 in Minnesota, and in 1992 in California.
But what makes this case extraordinary is that both Valor I and Valor II are copulating with the mom. In the other trio nests, the second dad appeared to have no role in reproduction and only acted as a nanny for the young, according to Audubon.
The nest originally started as a duo between Valor I and his first partner, Hope. But the male “wasn’t a very good partner or father,” wrote Audubon. “He was irresponsible about incubating the eggs and feeding the eaglets, which were really his only two jobs.”
“Normally they will switch roles, but what happened was Hope would sit on the nest for a long, long time,” said refuge visitor services manager Pam Steinhaus. “Valor I would never bring food in, so she’d have to get up and leave to hunt.”
And when Valor II came into the picture, both Hope and Valor I seemed to appreciate the extra help. The trio began cooperatively nesting in 2016, and Valor I began contributing more, seemingly motivated by his new partner’s help.
After Hope disappeared in March 2017, the male eagles chose to stay together even after their eaglets fledged months later. They found Starr in fall of 2017 and have been with her ever since. She laid three eggs that hatched in March this year. The baby bald eagles are expected to fledge in the coming weeks.