Two's a couple and three's a crowd. Not for this family of eagles.
Three eagles - 2 male and 1 female are raising three, fluffy little eaglets in a nest near the Mississippi River.
According to Washington Post, the Upper Mississippi River Refuge hosts a live webcam on this eagle family, which is a rare example of an eagle trio cooperatively nesting, raising their young together. Stewards at the refuge have said that all three birds, Valor I, Valor II (dads) and Starr (mom) "take part in nest maintenance, incubation and raising the young."
Initially, Valor I had a different partner called Hope. As per authorities, Valor I was irresponsible about incubating the eggs and feeding the eaglets, due to which Hope replaced him with another male - Valor II. But even after Valor II moved in, Valor I stayed and by 2016, the trio was "cooperatively nesting." Even Valor I was contributing, apparently motivated by his new male counterpart.
But their happy family didn't last for long. In March 2017, two adult eagles attacked the trio's nest and after an hour-long struggle, Hope disappeared and never returned. Her fate is unknown as of today. The whole struggle was caught on camera by the refuge.
The dads continued to raise their kids together, without Hope. The eaglets fledged at the end of May 2017. Filling their empty nest, the dads who chose to stay together, found a new partner in Starr with whom they have been since.
Starr has laid three eggs this year that have hatched in March. The three kids are expected to fledge in the next several weeks.
The picture of the trio was tweeted by Tulyome - an advocacy group with diverse communities to conserve, enhance, restore, and enjoy our public lands.
Birding News of the American Birding Association states:
A nesting trio is a rare occurrence among bald eagles, but this is not the first such case. Bald eagle nesting trios have been documented in Alaska in 1977; in Minnesota in 1983; in California in 1992; and a few others. In those cases, though, it was not clear which or how many eagles were actual parents, and the third eagle was termed a “helper” for its role in incubating and feeding young. In the current situation in Illinois, it is clear that those eggs have two fathers, which may be unique.
This unique trio is giving co-parenting goals to couple all over the world!