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Liberty and Justice no more? Bald eagle couple split on Valentine’s as new mate emerges

Bald eagle couple Liberty and Justice, together for 14 years as they nested near Washington, D.C., appear separated after Justice has been missing — and Liberty just laid first eggs of 2019. She may have a new mate.
Bald eagle couple Liberty and Justice, together for 14 years as they nested near Washington, D.C., appear separated after Justice has been missing — and Liberty just laid first eggs of 2019. She may have a new mate. Associated Press

What happened to true love?

After 14 years nesting together in Washington, D.C., bald eagle lovers Liberty and Justice appear to be no more, WTOP reported. Liberty may have found a new boo this Valentine’s Day — her first in more than a dozen years without Justice by her side.

Justice has been gone since Saturday, according to WTOP, and his absence left an opening for Liberty’s new mate “Aaron Burrd” (named by the Earth Conservation Corps).

What’s more, the romantic drama comes after Liberty laid an egg on Feb. 12, as noted by Fox5. It takes between five to ten days after mating for a bald eagle to lay an egg, according to The Raptor Resource.

So what happened to Justice, who was last seen three days before the egg was laid?

Tommy Lawrence — from the Earth Conservation Corps, which has a live-stream of the nest — offered one possibility for his absence.

“He may have just flown the coop,” Lawrence said, according to WJLA.

Bryan Watts, director of The Center for Conservation Biology, said a sudden split is odd for bald eagles, according to LiveScience. The birds are known to be monogamous breeders, Watts said, as over 95 percent go throughout their lives without getting a “divorce.”

To find a mate, bald eagles have a “cartwheel courtship flight,” Watts told LiveScience. He said “two bald eagles will fly up high, lock talons and then get into a cartwheel spin as they fall toward the ground, breaking apart at the last minute,” according to LiveScience.

On Wednesday, Liberty was caught engaging in that “cartwheeling,” WJLA reported. But she wasn’t with Justice.

As noted by WTOP, it will take up to 40 days for Liberty’s egg to hatch. During the incubation time, the female bald eagles protect their eggs while the male hunts for food.

Aaron Burrd might be busy if he sticks around: Liberty is known to have eggs in sets of two, WTOP reported.

Lawrence told WJLA that the unfolding drama makes one thing clear: “Life happens.”

“You’ve got to move on,” he told the TV station. “We’ll see what happens.”

An injured female bald eagle was treated at Treehouse Wildlife Center and released in Litchfield, where her mate was minding the nest. See video of her return to the wild.

Real-Time reporter Josh Magness covers breaking national news and trending news to keep readers of McClatchy’s newspapers up to date with the latest high-profile stories. He previously interned at McClatchy’s bureau in Washington, D.C, while covering the U.S. Congress.
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