The birds may have been tending to nonviable eggs from the beginning after the storm in March and may have buried the eggs in the nest. Charlie noted that this eagle pair now joins 99.9% of the other eagle nests in Maine with an imperfect breeding record.
The bird behavior in the last couple of days is characteristic of pre-laying behavior. In particular they have been sitting in an incubation position and copulating on the nest site. Charlie told me that captive eagles have renested 21 days after eggs were removed which is likely the least amount of time the birds would need. However, in the wild renesting in Maine is very rare. In the last 30+ years there have only been 4 documented.
In regards to collecting failed eggs. This would only happen with approval and guidance from Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the landowner. If the state and federal agencies felt collecting eggs was appropriate, it would only occur in fall when we have documented no eagle activity. Disturbance at eagle sites during the entire year, but particularly in the spring can cause a pair to abandon a nest site permanently. Gathering information from addled eggs is helpful, but not at the expense of disturbing the birds.
We have had the opportunity to have a unique view into the challenges that eagles face as they try to successfully raise chicks. This pair has been extraordinarily successful over the years. Failing as they have done this year, is quite common.
What should we expect now? Well, we are in uncharted waters and we will be watching along with you. The birds continued attendance to the nest site and copulating does indicate that they are still attached to the nest site. Will they renest? Their behavior in the next couple of weeks will tell us.
I urge you all to keep a close watch and continue to provide your extremely helpful observation on the blog. We literally count on your observations to help us understand how the birds are behaving.
Wing Goodale, BioDiversity Research Institute