I apologize for sending out another email so shortly after my first this morning. I felt it necessary to update you on the status of the webcam nest. Shortly after I sent my previous email, the eagle returned to the nest. The female loon put up a spirited defense of her chick, however it was not enough. Unfortunately, the chick was taken by the eagle.
While this is certainly not the outcome that we wanted, our intention with the webcam is to provide insight into the natural world, with a particular focus on loons and the challenges that they face during nesting. This morning, we witnessed firsthand the age-old battle that exists between eagles and loons. LPC's primary goal is to reduce the negative impacts that humans have on loons, and we hope for the day when natural threats such as eagles are the only problems that loons face.
For those interested, I am including a video of the incident below. While the video is not graphic, it may be difficult or disturbing for some viewers to watch.
Discretion is advised
. We felt it important to include this video as an educational moment. You will notice that the female loon flushes off of the nest when the eagle swoops in. While it may seem that she left her chick to fend for itself, that is not the case. There are a few reasons that the female loon acted in the way that she did.
1) Loons are incredibly vulnerable to predators while nesting due to their limited mobility on land. Adult loons are much more mobile (and therefore better able to defend their chicks) from the water. Once she was into the water, this female came back right away to try to save her chick, jabbing at the eagle with her bill.
2) Loons are a long-lived species. They have few chicks per year but make up for it by living many years. If an adult loon dies trying to protect a chick in a given year, that adult loses out on all future reproductive output. Because loons live so long, that means sacrificing several potential future chicks to save one chick. In terms of overall lifetime reproductive output, the survival of a single chick is not as critical as the survival of the adult loon. For this reason, the female loon did not stay on the nest, though as I previously mentioned, she did come back to defend her chick once she was safely in the water. This loon did
everything that she possibly could
to save her chick without jeopardizing her own safety.