Eagle Cam star Ozzie back at Pritchett’s in North Fort Myers
Things have gotten rather exciting in the brief time since Ozzie the eagle returned home to his nest on the Pritchett farm on Bayshore Road.
Three’s a crowd, and it seems Ozzie is going to have to win back the affections of his Harriet after another male moved in while Ozzie was gone recuperating from injuries he sustained last spring.
Ozzie and the other male eagle named by eagle fans as Pretty Boy, were seen fighting it out in the sky on Sunday, shortly after Ozzie returned home to winter.
A photographer at the scene said Ozzie appeared to be the worse for wear in the encounter, suffering bleeding from a torn talon.
Those who hope they can turn on the Pritchett Eagle Cam and see everything play out on live internet have to wait until Oct. 1, which is when the cameras will be installed and operational.
Andrew Pritchett, who runs the Eagle Cam, said there have been many who have visited the farm to catch the action, and that they are happy to see Ozzie back.
“We were hoping that Ozzie would show back up and, as we got closer to season, we thought our worst nightmare would come true that Ozzie wouldn’t come back,” Pritchett said. “We got word he was back and we’re excited to see how this will play out.”
Michelle Van Deventer, biological scientist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said much of what she will see on the Eagle Cam will be a learning experience, as scientists don’t get a chance to watch these things unfold.
She said that sometimes when an intruder comes around, they will battle for that nest and territory.
“These things can happen where you don’t have the mate missing. The young are healthier and one will just displace the other mate and move in,” Van Deventer said. “That’s the fitness component of breeding pairs. Her objective is to have a mate that is healthy and fit enough to ensure she can rear offspring.”
Van Deventer said that eagle pairs tend to show strong fidelity toward each other and to the nest, until one is killed or lost.
“Harriet is not savvy to Ozzie’s circumstances, but her fidelity is to that nest,” Van Deventer said. “It wouldn’t surprise me that if she has bonded with the new eagle, she wouldn’t take Ozzie back.”
Ozzie was found injured near the train tracks in Fort Myers in late March. His left wing had a serious fracture when he was presumably hit by a car.
He was brought to CROW, a rehab clinic for animals on Sanibel to recuperate. He was treated and then released in June.
Meanwhile, a “frequent visitor” started coming around at about the time Harriett’s eaglets were about to fledge. Once they did, Harriet started allowing his visits.
“Generally, she’ll protect the young in the nest from a new mate until they safely fledge and leave. The next season she will accept him as her mate,” Van Deventer said.
Meanwhile, Harriet moved on quickly, finding a much younger eagle with which to cavort.
Both Ozzie and Harriet, who for the past three years have had their nesting and family-rearing experiences shown to the world on the Pritchett Eagle Cam, are in their 20s.
Pretty Boy is believed to be about five.
Van Deventer said there is no research regarding rejected mates, since often rivals will fight to the death. What Ozzie will do next is unknown.
“If he decides to cut his losses, he may try to find a new nest and new mate. I don’t know,” Van Deventer said. “Eagle territories persist past any individual eagle, so when we have nests in active territories, when Harriet’s time has come, the male will find a younger female.”
As for the present, many followers are rooting for Ozzie, as they have had an emotional interest in him for years.
“We’re pulling for him because of the history and what he’s been through. We don’t know what will happen, but we’re optimistic that whichever way it goes, they’ll be unharmed and the season will move forward,” Pritchett said.
In the event Pretty Boy does emerge victorious, Pritchett said they will put the camera in the nest and hope for the best.
“Each year has its own tribulations and our cameras will be running and we’ll see what happens,” Pritchett said, adding his team will try to be as unobtrusive as possible when it’s time to put the cameras up.