An intriguing threesome of two male bald eagles and one female are raising a set of eaglets together to the delight of admirers.
Eagle trios are rare, but they do happen. The two males in this case, Valor I and Valor II, had previously been part of a trio with a female named Hope. But she went missing in 2017, and the two Valors partnered with a new female, Starr, later that year.
Now the three of them are dutifully raising their three eaglets in a wildlife refuge in a tree along the Mississippi River in Fulton, Illinois, NPR reports.
The entire affair has been captured on live webcam (above) by the Stewards of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge.
Researchers aren’t sure which male is the biological father of the eaglets, since both have been seen mating with Starr. The eggs hatched in late March and early April.
Valor I and Hope became a pair in 2012. Valor wasn’t a particularly good dad: He often didn’t sit on the nest as long as he should have, and didn’t bring any food back to the nest for Hope and the babies, according to a report by the Audubon Society. Their two eaglets eventually died.
Valor II, a far more responsible father, showed up the next year, but the first Valor hung around, too.
Researchers finally documented in 2016 that all three birds were sharing nest-building, incubation and hunting duties. Hope mated with both Valors.
In 2017, two eagles began relentlessly attacking the nest, and Hope vanished. The Valors managed to protect the nest and successfully raised a pair of eaglets. A new female, dubbed Starr by researchers, joined the boys, and this year all three are sharing baby-raising and hunting duties.
The webcam trained on the trio is particularly popular with eagle fans.
“We feel like it’s a pretty special nest,” Pam Steinhaus, a manager at the refuge, told the Audubon Society.
The trio is now expected to stay together for life.