Do eagles mate for life? What happens when their mate dies?

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Do eagles mate for life?

Yes, eagles mate for life and are monogamous birds. They are known to have the same mating and breeding pairs year after year.

Although all of the species of eagles do not stay together all of the time, but yes after a breeding pair is once established they will meet their partner each and every year during the breeding season, and for the rest of the time of the year they stay all alone.

In the animal kingdom, it has been noticed that there are lots of monogamous bird species that cheat and divorce from their mating partners. But, here in the case of eagles, it’s rare to witness such occurrences.

In eagles, a mating pair will make a strong bond, and this bonding will last from one nesting season to one breeding season to several such seasons and till the whole life without any doubts.

It is has been noticed that eagles are not only sexually monogamous, but are also socially monogamous.

Sexually monogamous means that eagles have sex with the same mate throughout their life, while socially monogamous means both parents take very good raising care of their young eaglets after hatching. Eagles are both sexually and socially monogamous.

When they live in pairs they perform various courtship behaviors which are noteworthy, and this enhances their pair bonding a lot.


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In mating pairs it has been noticed that both male and female eagles will build their nest together, both will bring and feed food to the baby eagles (eaglets), both will defend their nest and eaglets, and will re-mate during the next breeding season if everything goes well.

This eagle pair was hanging out at the Memphis Zoo, US. (Image: Joshua J. Cotten/Unsplash)

What happens when an eagle’s mate dies? Do eagles stay single if their mate dies?

If an eagle’s mate dies then chances are there that the eagle will find another mate and continue to spend the rest of its life by forming a new bond with the new mate.

And the chances are very very rare for adult eagles to stay single if their mate dies. They will find a new mate and will start living together in the same territory.

It’s true that eagles are truly monogamous and faithful to their mates till the timing their mates are alive.

And if their mates die then chances are pretty good that they will find a new mate and will stay faithful to the new one. But yes, this is also true that eagles will show deep grief after the death of their mate.

It is also to be mentioned here that the adult eagles are highly territorial in nature, and will live inside their territories during the time of the year when they aren’t migrating.

So, as such, if their mate dies, they will spend their time all alone inside the territory until and unless they find a new mate who will accompany them by forming a new mating pair to allow them to live in the same territory as loving partners.

In eagles, mostly bald eagles, it has been also reported that an intruding male can enter a territory that is not his and will eventually fight with the dominant male eagle of that territory just in order to take over the territory and his female.

So, during the fight, if the male eagle dies, then chances are very high that the female will be forced to form a bond with the intruder male and will usually keep breeding and staying in the same territory.

Or else, the female will be removed from the territory and she will be forced to find a new mate in another territory.


Why do eagles mate for life?

It’s true that about 90% of bird species are monogamous, and that there are some notable birds that do mate for life, and these include some of the well-known examples like geese, swans, cranes, including the eagles that we are talking about here in this post.

We all have heard about monogamy i.e animals that are monogamous do mate for a lifetime, but why do they do so?

So, Why do eagles mate for life? Here we need to know a few scientific reasons to answer this query.

Being monogamous is an adaptational behavior that many animals have been adapted to have great reproductive success, caring, sharing at least some of the work of raising the young, and defending their young ones from any upcoming dangers.

Researchers also say that the ancestors of eagles were polygamous in nature i.e they had multiple mating partners at the same time.

And, it was discovered that in many animals evolution over the course of millions of years used a kind of universal formula for turning non-monogamous or polygamous species into monogamous ones.

Same, here in the case of eagles, some genetic evolution may have occurred that can be only determined via. deep genetical studies of the brain cells that can show us molecular biological reasons for turning up the activity of some genes and turning down others in the brain causing monogamy in eagles.

Maybe the ancestors of the present-day eagles had various ecological and environmental hardships in raising their young ones due to their lack of parental care.

So, researchers believe that the evolutionary driving force behind monogamy in eagles was due to a greater need for paternal care investment for the successful growth and survival rate of the offspring.

So, the ancestors of eagles have adapted slowly to follow biparental care which may or may not be equal to that of the maternal care, and this had gradually increased the fitness level of the offspring over time.

So, that’s why it is seen that eagles are truly monogamous and so they not only mate for life but also that both parents together contribute leading to biparental care in raising the offsprings.

Monogamy in eagles is also one of the reasons to ultimately try to pass on their genes to their offspring.

But the fact that mating with several males i.e polygamy will provide great chances for the survival of the offspring and so this fact can’t also be ignored. And as eagles don’t practice polygamy so, the actual reason for monogamy in them is still controversial.


Do all eagles mate for life?

Yes, for sure! All eagles mate for life, let it be any of the eagle species.

Some of the well-known examples of monogamous eagles (that mate for life) are Bald Eagle, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Sanford’s Sea Eagle, African Fish Eagle, etc.

And also yes, just like the majority (almost 90%) of other bird species eagles too are monogamous, and so they all mate for life.

It’s true that all eagles are monogamous, but an extensive study of their lifetime mating behavior has been done on Bald Eagles.

Eagles are highly territorial and a mating pair will always guard their territory against intruders no matter what.

Some form permanent pairs and inhabit territories throughout the year, while others are nomadic.

Eagles form new mates just sooner or later after the death of the old one. As such, this can lead to some nest sites being continuously occupied for many years.

In some of the eagle species like the African fish eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer), it has been seen that the mating pairs often maintain two or more nests, which they frequently reuse throughout their life with having the same mating partner.


Do male and female eagles stay together?

Eagles that migrate during a particular time of the year may not stay with their mate for that timing, and so will lead a nomadic life. And, when they are back to their native territory they will reunite, mate, and breed.

And, those eagles that migrate partially or are non-migratory in nature will occupy a territory and will stay together as a mating pair all year-round.

It has been also reported that a mating pair that has repeatedly failed in breeding attempts may not stay together and will soon separate and look for new mates to form a new mating pair.

It has been also reported that in some scenarios during their migratory journeys the mating pairs may fly together by maintaining a distance of at least 200 meters or more apart. So, they may or may not stay together during their migration season.

In some, it has been also reported that the monogamous eagles may stay together while being devoted to each other, but may also opt to mate with another partner without letting know about the same to its true partner. Such a kind of behavior has been reported in the wild.

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