Oh, the drama. A love triangle played out last week in an online video stream, and was witnessed by elementary school students. The whereabouts of the spurned female -- who is crippled -- remain a mystery.
The lovers? Bald eagles nesting in a tree in Trempealeau County in western Wisconsin. The witnesses? Students at Blair-Taylor Elementary school, who have been watching and studying the activities of the eagles for the past four years through two web cams set up near the nest, situated in a 60-foot cottonwood tree very near to the school. Their website is called Eagles 4 Kids.com.
The male eagle, named Larry by the students, apparently dumped Lucy, his longtime mate, last week. That's when a new female showed up at the nest, the Winona Daily News reports. Lucy lost most of her right foot in 2012.
Larry stayed with Lucy after her injury. But last year she laid just one egg and it didn't hatch, and that might have been the beginning of the end.
This is nature, and Larry needs a partner that can offer the best chance to reproduce, said Darrin Briggs, the Blair-Taylor teacher whose class monitors the nest, according to the Daily News.
Briggs said his students have adjusted to Lucy's absence, although they're asking area residents to keep an eye out for her, according to the newspaper. They have not named the new female, Briggs said.
Lucy was injured in November 2012, and that caused the toes on her right foot to wither away, according to the school's website. At first, eagle experts weren't sure she could survive in the wild, but she has adapted well enough to capture prey for food, and to perch. But she's at a disadvantage when it comes to courtship, said Jennifer Drayna, a naturalist at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minn.
When bald eagles court each other, they lock talons in mid-air and cartwheel down in a test of strength and agility, she said.
“They’re all about raising a family … are you a good match to raise a family?” Drayna said, according to the newspaper.
Lucy’s whereabouts remain unknown despite a search of the area over the weekend. But Briggs is quite confident she's alive.
"She is one smart eagle,” Briggs wrote on the website Saturday, “and more than likely she knew her place now, and could not fight to save her nest.”
It’s unclear whether Larry and his new mate, a relatively young bird, will be able to settle down in time to produce young this season, Briggs said.
“Usually things like this take some time to straighten out,” Briggs said. “But they may prove us wrong. You never know.”
Here's a video clip from the eagle cam showing Larry and his new mate working on their nest: