Bald eagles, not azaleas, are the stars at Arboretum

Bald eagles, not azaleas, are the stars at Arboretum

The hottest outdoor news in Washington, D.C. this month isn’t the flowering of cherry trees at the Tidal Basin. This year it’s the birth of two Bald Eagles at the National Arboretum, thanks to 24/7 coverage of the event by the live, hopelessly addicting Eaglecam installed by the American Eagle Foundation.

The eagle parents, named Mr. President and First Lady, are the first Bald Eagle pair to nest at the 446-acre site since 1947, so it would have been a big deal even without the video coverage but it’s the eaglecam that’s mesmerized even non-birders and gotten them cameos on national news shows.

Below, the first eaglet hatched on March 18. His or her sibling appeared two days later.

And here they are shedding shells and being fed bits of fish!

Their fish dinner is no surprise, given the nest’s proximity to the Anacostia River, home to at least 50 species of fish.

If there’s a down side to all this, it’s the location the eagles chose to start their family – in a tulip poplar growing among the Arboretum’s famous azalea collection,  So this year, visitors won’t be able to get close enough to actually see them. According to, parts of Azalea Drive had to be closed to cars and even pedestrians because they’re within the buffer zone established by federal law – roughly 660 feet in diameter surrounding the nest site.

I have lots of questions about all this – like what’s the impact on the Arboretum of all this publicity and a closed-off Azalea Drive at bloom time? And could a resurgence of eagles in coming years mean more parts of the Arboretum closed to the public? I’m awaiting answers from the Arboretum staff and will update this post if I get them.

Posted by

Susan Harris
on March 25, 2016 at 9:24 am, in the category Public Gardens, What’s Happening.


    • Thomas Christopher
    • 18th March 2016

    Wildlife is especially thrilling in an urban setting — I’m sure this is interesting all sorts of people in the Arboretum who never knew about it previously.

    • Barbara
    • 5th August 2016

    The nest site is in a tulip poplar, not popular. Doggone spell check!
    Greatly appreciate your thoughtful comments on the ‘do not cross’ barrier, and the arboretum itself. Thank you!

    • Tom
    • 15th September 2016

    Please keep us updated about the road. I couldn’t take my mom last year to see the azaleas and it sounds like this year isn’t going to work either. Thanks!

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