Birdwatchers in the Cleveland Metroparks Brecksville Reservation reported last week that a Canada goose is now sitting in a nest once occupied by two bald eagles. According to Cleveland.com, park officials have been looking into the strange situation since Sunday, but it appears that the goose has been there for some time. Since the eagle pair remained nearby and has no interest in reclaiming the nest, experts believe it may have been abandoned before the goose moved in. It is still prime real estate, however, and several geese have been reported fighting over the nest.
It is unusual for geese to take over eagle nests, though it is not entirely unheard of. Canada geese usually nest closer to the ground and in different environments than eagles prefer, but a large nest is sometimes too tempting to turn down—and bald eagles can build very large nests indeed. The Guinness Book of World Records currently lists a 9.5-foot wide, 20-foot deep bald eagle nest as the largest of any bird species ever recorded. At that size, these nests are more than adequate for geese.
Yet geese avoid eagle nests for a very simple reason. Despite the Canada goose’s notorious reputation for fearlessness, bald eagles are one of the few predators they consistently avoid. Geese who are brave enough to move into an eagle nest, even an abandoned one, often find themselves being forced out by its previous occupants—-or find themselves on an eagle’s menu.
In this case, however, it seems that the eagles have no intention of retaking the nest.
“The eagle pair has been seen in the immediate area, perching on large dead limbs nearby, but no courtship or re-attempt to nest has been attempted or observed, to my knowledge,” said birding expert Jennifer Brumfield.
For now, the nest will go to whichever goose can hold it from the others.