Hanover eagle intruder exerts dominance, eats eggs

The Hanover-area bald eagles, nesting on private property near Codorus State Park, welcomed their second egg of 2018 at about 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23. 
(Photo: HDonTap/ Pennsylvania Game Commission)

In a sad turn of events for the Hanover-area eagles nested near Codorus State Park, Karen Lippy confirmed the new female intruder, Lucy, has eaten the eggs from the former resident eagle pair.

Lucy broke and ate the eggs Friday, March 23, according to Lippy, and continues to work on the nest with male eagle Freedom.

"That's part of pair bonding," she said, adding that Lucy is also sitting in the spot of Freedom's former mate — a sign that things are moving along for a complete takeover.

Lucy is bigger than the former female eagle, Liberty — a quality which no doubt gave her an advantage in winning her mate, Lippy said.

The nest endured a couple of significant shake-ups within the past week — one being Lucy's exertion of dominance to win Freedom, the other the heavy amounts of snow the region experienced Tuesday and Wednesday.

Those conditions made it difficult to care for the growing eaglets that were yet to hatch, and Lippy had said even then it was too late for the eggs.

"It’s too long they’ve been left alone, and they definitely are unviable now," she said Thursday.

The silver lining could be that new eggs are not yet out of the question for this season. Lippy said the eagle pair was seen carrying sticks to the nest together, so it seems the male has accepted his new mate.

Though she did not think more eggs would be possible until next year, she said she read a recent post about another eagle's nest takeover — and in that nest, the female eagle produced eggs a month later.

It's a long shot, Lippy said, but she wouldn't rule it out.

Codorus State Park volunteer Karen Lippy, of Hanover, poses for a photo with her latest book, titled "Two Little Eagles," Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016, near the Marina Classroom at the park. This is Lippy's third self-published book. Two others are in the works.  Amanda J. Cain photo

Background: Many viewers of the nest's livestream were shaken with news that the female eagle, Liberty, might have been forced out of the nest by a female intruder.

Lippy weighed in on the recent disturbance.

"There had been other eagles around for probably about two months, in the vicinity, but when the (Hanover-area) eagles went after (the intruders) they left," she said.

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The attack: The intrusion became more personal Friday, March 9, when a female eagle attacked Liberty while she was sitting on her eggs, Lippy said.

She determined it was a female because the eagle was similar in size to Liberty, and female eagles tend to be larger.

Liberty and Freedom, the male eagle, worked together to ward off the visitor and protect their eggs, but for the past few weeks, Lippy said, other eagles have been flying by and taunting the pair.

A male, named Charlie Brown after the Peanuts character for his skinny body and big head, has been perched with a female, named after Peanuts character Lucy, for her aggressive temperament.

Lippy believes that female is the one who attacked Liberty.

Disappearance: She said she "began to see strange things" in the nest after cameras went down Saturday, March 17, likely because of a short circuit in equipment from strong winds. 

When the camera came back on the following Monday, Liberty was nowhere to be seen, but an injured eagle had been reported outside Glen Rock, off Route 216, Saturday morning.

"If they had the bird in hand, I would go to look at it," Lippy said.

Though she is unsure if she could determine if the hurt eagle was Liberty, she said, "I've been looking at her almost every day since 2005," and she has unique markings on her wings and an injury on her beak.

Not the first time: Lippy said it's likely the female eagle is trying to take Liberty's spot, with Freedom as her new mate, and it's not the first time an eagle has been pushed from the nest.

It happened in 2012, when Freedom attacked Liberty's mate and took over as the new male of the nest.

"She seems to be dumping Charlie Brown," Lippy said of new female, Lucy. She has been chasing him away and attacking Freedom, but not in a way that injures him. 

"It can be quite disturbing when you see this happen," Lippy said, but she believes people will learn to love the new eagle.

"When Freedom took over, he was not very popular either, and now we love him," she said.

'Exciting time': Lippy continued, saying it's a miracle for any eagle to bring a chick into the world successfully, as so many things can go wrong. Liberty was beaten by a female eagle last year and managed to hold on to the nest, while Freedom has also been seen fighting for the nest in the past.

More:No chicks this year at Hanover-area eagle nest

More:'Eagle cam' viewers fret over beak injury, experts say wait and see

There's a saying, Lippy said, that there's "many a slip between egg and chick."

"People have forgotten these issues," she said, but they happen quite often.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission took a positive approach to the disruption, citing it as a learning opportunity.

"This certainly is an exciting time at the Hanover bald eagle nest," read a Tuesday Facebook post. 

"As bald eagles are filling available habitat in some parts of the state, there are going to be some conflicts between competing eagles," the post continues. "We have never in modern history been witness to such conflict events and we will all learn as we go."

Lippy said though the post might not calm fears about the eagles, it's the truth and people should take it to heart.