NORFOLK -- "Dad Eagle" at Norfolk Botanical Garden may have a new lady friend.
Staff members at Norfolk Botanical Garden say that two adult bald eagles have been keeping company near the site of the 2011 eagle nest.
The pair was photographed perching together in the nest tree Thursday morning.
Biologists say this is a good sign that the resident male has found a new mate for the 2012 nesting season.
"This is the time of year that eagles begin looking for mates, or established pairs begin to re-familiarize with each other and start work on repairing an old nest or starting work on a new nest," said wildlife researcher Reese Lukei of the Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary.
Lukei said it's too early to tell whether the pair will nest together, but their recent behavior is encouraging.
"Within the next few weeks they will likely be observed bringing sticks to their nest," said Lukei.
The eagles at Norfolk Botanical Garden have become high-profile Internet celebrities thanks to Eagle Cam, a popular webcam on WVEC.com which streams live video of the nest.
For the past six years, online birdwatchers have seen the same pair of eagles raise their broods, from mating and egg-laying to hatching, daily feedings, and fledging.
Misfortune hit the eagle family in April when the adult female was killed in a collision with a plane at nearby Norfolk International Airport.
Biologists who manage the nest NBG determined that the male would be unable to raise the three chicks on his own and the brood was removed to a wildlife center in upstate Virginia. The eaglets were later released into the wild.
Lukei said the new female is at least five years old and is most likely from the Hampton Roads area.
Perrry Mathewes, education program manager at Norfolk Botanical Garden, said that several adult bald eagles have been seen recently at the garden.
Mathewes and other staff members have seen the eagle pair perched in the nest used in 2011. However, they haven't been able to determine whether the pair has been adding sticks to that nest, which would be a stronger indication of their plans to nest in the same tree for the 2012 season.