Every year, sometime in early to mid-March, fans of the bald eagle gather around their laptops to witness the miracle of baby eaglets hatching from their eggs. These events happen all over the United States. A few dozen sites have special cameras attached to nesting sites that let people view the inner lives of these majestic birds from Florida up to Alaska and many places in between.
What You Can See
An individual camera usually focuses on the nest of a pair of eagles to see the everyday lives of America’s national bird. Visitors can see these raptors bring prey back to the nest, defend the nest against other birds and huddle together for warmth. One of the most precious things to watch is the hatching of new baby eagles in the early spring.
On March 20, 2016, the second of two eggs successfully hatched at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. The hatchling emerged at about 3 a.m., and anyone awake to watch it saw the event happen thanks to special infrared receptors on the camera. This particular nest has a nearby webcam that was watched by close to 1 million people leading up to the hatching. Two eagles, one male and one female, inhabit and oversee their home. Humans have named the male Mr. President and the female First Lady.
The camera in the nation’s capital received the most attention during hatching season. However, this nest isn’t the only eagle cam worth watching.
A new high-definition camera in Hillsborough, New Jersey captured the laying of two eggs in mid-February at Duke Farms. People have watched the same nest, with the same male adult eagle, since 2008, thanks to this camera’s setup. The nest first appeared in 2005, and more than 20 baby eagles have hatched from it. Once the baby eagles reach five to six weeks of age, wildlife experts band them so they can be identified later. More than 10 million users have watched eagles on this camera since it went live.
More than 25 eagle cams exist all over the United States and Canada. Some websites host interactive chats, especially during hatching season, so ecologists can chat with ordinary citizens as to what’s happening in the nest. Most eagle cams live stream 24 hours per day, seven days per week, to provide continuous monitoring of the site. Night vision is often available thanks to infrared detectors on cameras that interpret heat signatures as black-and-white images. The eagles can’t see the infrared light emitting from the cameras, so this technology doesn’t bother them. Some of the cameras have backing from scientific organizations, while others need help from nonprofit agencies to keep broadcasting every year.
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Technology Behind the Eagle Cams
Putting a camera 75 to 100 feet up a tree takes a lot of effort. The camera must be anchored to the tree so it stays firmly in place. The device has to stay far enough away from the eagles so the camera doesn’t bother them. Some cameras have camouflage surrounding them. Setup usually occurs in December before the birds migrate back to the nest for the winter. The camera needs power, so workers string a long electrical cable along the tree up to the camera. Outdoor cables also connect to a modem to allow the device to transmit its images to the Internet.
Some sites have multiple cameras, giving people two or three views of the same nest. Most cameras exist somewhat near human settlements to take advantage of power and Internet access. The popularity of eagle cams has taken off in recent years thanks to mobile technology, videos posted to YouTube, and more camera setups than ever before. Some fans of this technology record what happens on their own computers and post updates via social media and video-sharing websites.
Two ubiquitous aspects of contemporary society, camera technology and the Internet, combine to create a unique way for ordinary citizens to monitor America’s national symbol. Thanks to millions of eagle cam fans, conservationists know that Americans take personal pride in conserving wildlife and national treasures. Take a look at another majestic bird here.Whizzco