Famous Southwest Florida Eagles Return to Nest After Hurricane Ian

by Samantha Whidden
(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

As southwest Florida begins to clean up the destruction that Hurricane Ian brought last week, residents notice eagles are now returning to their nests. 

The Southwest Florida Eagle Cameras (SWFEC) operators announced on Facebook that the two eagles that were being observed returned to their nest and started to rebuild. “Resilience is prevalent in every species,” the post reads. “I hope this picture gives you the same strength and hope it’s given us. We will overcome this and rebuild our cherish community/home together.” 

Unfortunately, the SWFEC announced late last week that the while eagles’ nest tree is still standing, the actual nest and cameras were taken out by the storm. “Waiting for the eagles to return and hopefully rebuild,” the post stated at the time. “We Weill update everyone when we know more.” 

According to KOAA, the SWFEC is considered a local favorite and has ten thousand views per month. This number spikes during the eagles’ nesting season. The camera not only captures adorable moments but also times of drama. This includes attacks from predatory birds. 

In November 2021, the camera caught an unidentified bird flying into the nest and began fighting the two resident eagles, named Harriet and M15. In a matter of seconds, the fighting bird fell out of the tree. Harriet and M15 have been together since 2015 and have been the stars of the SWEC for years. They have parented numerous generations during that time. They also survived other fights with different predatory birds. 

Meanwhile, it was reported that the nest of fellow eagles Ron and Rita at the Miami Zoo is fine and withstood the storm. The nest at the Achieva Credit Union of the Ospreys in St. Petersburg also remains intact. 

Florida Has an Estimated 1,500 Nesting Pairs of Eagles 

According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida currently has an estimated 1,500 nesting pairs of eagles. The state is considered one of the densest concentrations of nesting eagles in the lower 48 states. 

The large amounts of nesting pairs of eagles in Florida is a significant increase from only 88 active nests in 1973. Nesting territories are frequently around the inland lake and river systems, which include the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes and along the Gulf Lakes. 

“Nesting habitat generally consists of mature canopy trees located along habitat edges,” the organization explains. “Providing an unobstructed view of surrounding areas. Daytime roosts are in the highest trees and adjacent to shorelines.”

Currently, the recorded lifespan of eagles in the wild is 28 years. They tend to follow a pattern that is typical of raptors. This means they have a lower juvenile survival followed by increased survival in adulthood. Eagles and their nests are protected by state rules and federal law.