Apr 6

A bald eagle family in the US state of Iowa has become a resounding internet success, thanks to a live video stream that broadcasts events straight from the nest.

Two cameras monitor the nest constantly, transmitting a live feed 24 hours a day. Installed on branches five feet above the nest, the cameras provide viewers with intimate footage of the nest and its inhabitants, without disturbing the birds. The automated main camera is trained on the nest and switches to infrared at night, while the second camera can be panned, tilted or zoomed to focus on interesting nest activity.

Photo of bald eagle landing

The bald eagle is a magnificent bird of prey and the national emblem of the United States.

A famous family

Located in a cottonwood tree on private property near the Decorah Fish Hatchery in Iowa, the nest is built around 80 feet off the ground. It is currently home to a pair of adult bald eagles, two hatchlings and an egg.

These somewhat unlikely celebrities have attracted over 11 million viewers from 130 nations since they first went online.

Three eggs were laid by the female in February 2011, the first of which hatched on Saturday 2nd April, followed closely by the second egg on Sunday. The third egg is expected to hatch within the next couple of days.

The newly famous bald eagle pair has been together since the winter of 2007-2008, and has successfully fledged eaglets each year since.

Photo of bald eagle pair at nest

The bald eagle nests high up in trees or on cliffs, typically close to water.

Going viral

The cameras are maintained by the Raptor Resource Project (RRP), which specialises in the preservation of falcons, eagles, ospreys, hawks, and owls.

Bob Anderson, director of the Raptor Resource Project, is surprised at the success of the eagle webcam, saying, “Why viral, I’m not really sure. The world just likes to hear something good instead of negative. This is all positive, this makes people feel good.”

The live videos are being streamed on the website UStream.

So many visitors viewed the webcam at the weekend that it caused the site to crash briefly as the second egg hatched. Around 100,000 people have been watching the eagles in the nest at any one time and, since the first signs of new life in the nest, its popularity continues to grow.

Photo of bald eagle soaring

The recovery of the bald eagle population since the 1960s is heralded as one of North America’s most successful conservation stories.

Conservation success

The webcam was originally intended for schools and universities, but has since become a worldwide internet sensation.

Anderson says of the eagle webcam project, “Our dream always has been to provide an insight to wildlife, as a science tool for school. It’s a wonderful education tool, people are learning the good and the bad of nature.”

The bald eagle, the national emblem of the United States, is a powerful symbol for conservation. Having undergone a massive population decline between the late 1700s and the 1960s, the subsequent recovery of this magnificent species is often considered to be one of North America’s most successful conservation stories.

Find out more about the bald eagle on ARKive.

View the live video stream from the nest.

Visit the Raptor Resource Project website.

Helen Roddis, ARKive Species Text Author