HISTORY OF THE EAGLES.
In 2002, the original female from the Norfolk Botanical Garden eagle pair and her mate built a nest on Norfolk International Airport property near the end of a runway. On Christmas Day of 2002, the male of the pair was struck and killed by a plane and in January, 2003, the female found a new mate. They had one egg that season and the eaglet fledged from the nest in May. After the breeding season, it was decided that it was too dangerous to leave the nest on airport property and it was hoped that removing the nest and the nest tree would cause the eagles to settle farther away. So with proper permits, the nest was destroyed and the tree was removed.
In late 2003, the eagle pair arrived at Norfolk Botanical Garden. These eagles, affectionately known as Mom and Dad Norfolk, built a nest in the Garden in the 2003/2004 breeding season and produced a clutch of two eggs in 2004. Both eaglets fledged that May. From 2004 through 2012, 19 eaglets were produced at nests in various trees within a small area at the Garden. For eight years, the pair was active in the Garden coexisting with the nearby airport.
In 2006, a camera was installed over the nest providing an intimate view of the eagles as they continued to nest, breed and rear their young. The online audience following the pair increased every year. Besides thousands watching online worldwide, 469 schools in 42 states–along with a school in Canada and two in the United Kingdom, registered as watching the NBG EagleCam. By then, moderators from the early years were seasoned veterans and were providing a wealth of factual information concerning eagles on the chat provided with the cam. Schools regularly arranged for live chats from their classrooms. EagleCam became an international sensation and an immensely valuable educational tool.
On April 26, 2011, the female eagle was killed when a plane landed on her when she dropped a fish at the foot of the runway at Norfolk International. She was in the process of taking food to three eaglets in the nest. Though the male eagle did bring food to the nest after the female‘s death, it was decided that it would not be possible for him to protect the nest, feed himself and feed three eaglets who were almost adult size. So on April 27, 2011, the eaglets were moved to the Wildlife Center of Virginia in Waynesboro where they were successfully raised. They were released back into the wild on July 26, 2011.
In September of 2012, the male was seen with the first of four females who were vying to become his new mate. There were pitted battles over the nest, and his current mate (female #3) kept returning even after several females temporarily seemed to secure their position. During the summer of 2012, only she remained and she and Dad Norfolk continue as a bonded pair today.
The pair started to rebuild the 2011 nest until the City of Norfolk permitted its removal by the USDA on October 4, 2012, citing airport safety. Two nests were removed that day. Additional nests were removed on December 18, 2012, and January 11, February 8, March 5, March 29 of 2013, December 17, 2013 and February 6, 2014.
Their favored trees, old growth Loblolly pines, have had perfectly healthy limbs removed to try to discourage nesting. The pair continues to return to the same area. In spite of attempts to dissuade them by tearing down their nests, and by making modifications to their nest trees to prevent re-nesting, the use of loud noises, bright lights and even paintball guns, “Dad” and “The Missus” continued to try to call the Garden their home. But Dad eventually moved out of the Garden.
In July 2014, Dad Norfolk was found to be building a new nest on private property on Lake Whitehurst north of the Garden. His new mate turned out to be his daughter HE from the 2009 nest at NBG. They successfully raised one offspring, a male known as Wilson who fledged on May 29, 2015.
Dad Norfolk and HE returned to their nest this fall to ready their nest for the upcoming breeding season. Sadly, HE was killed on January 6, 2016 and Dad Norfolk begins again to search for a new mate.