A ‘thrupple’ of bald eagles has captivated America with their successful non-conventional family.
In a nest on the Mississippi River in northwest Illinois, two males named Valor I and Valor II and a female named Starr are sharing chick-raising duties.
The thrupple has so far this year raised three chicks, according to the Washington Post. The latest chick was born earlier this month.
A live stream of the nest shows the three parents taking turns in feeding the chicks, taking care of the nest, and going out hunting.
Footage has shown Starr mates with both males. But, the two dads did raise chicks with another female, and alone, in the past.
‘They are involved in all aspects,’ Pam Steinhaus, visitor services manager at the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, told CNN.
‘Everybody brings in sticks. The boys put the sticks where they think [they go], and Starr always moves them back to where she thinks it [should go].’
The three eaglets are growing well, Steinhaus said.
How did they all meet?
Steinhaus told CNN eagle families like this are not common.
But, threesomes have been spotted in Alaska in 1977, Minnesota in 1983 and California in 1992.
And, the three parents have a long and convoluted romantic history:
In 2012, Valor I met a lady eagle named Hope. Valor 1 was not a good parent, however, and rarely helped with hunting or guarding the nest.
Then, in 2013, Valor II showed up. He became Hope’s main partner and took on a lot of parenting duties.
The three were in a relationship until 2017, when tragedy struck.
Hope was in a violent fight near the nest. She never came back.
Steinhaus said the fight probably severely injured Hope. Seriously-hurt parents will flee the nest to avoid attracting predators.
Valor I matured and took on more parental responsibility. The two dads raised two chicks themselves.
Starr joined them later in 2017.
But, Steinhaus told CNN the threesome is now likely to stay together. Eagles are extremely loyal to nest sites, she said.