Do you want a fun activity where you don’t need to leave your house, but you can bring the best of nature live to your laptop? Try watching an eagle nest on a live feed camera. But beware, it can be addictive. The cameras become operational each season before the eagle couples lay their eggs and give a 24/7 live feed of life through incubation, hatching, growing, and fledging. There is also a chat option available, and you’ve never seen more enthusiastic and engaged viewers.
There are many eagle cams around the country, but I will only highlight three of them here.
The Northeast Florida Eagle Cam
This camera site is sponsored by the American Eagle Foundation (AEF), which is based in Pigeon Forge, TN, and follows Romeo and Juliet, a mated pair of eagles who have been documented since 2008. This makes them at least 14 years old, because bald eagles don’t reach mating age until 5 years old. Romeo and Juliet have returned to the same nest since 2008 and have a 100% success rate in raising 17 eaglets to fledging (flying from the nest.) The cameras were installed after the 2012 – 2013 nesting season and became operational in the fall of 2013.
Several weeks after fledging, the eaglets leave the area for good and the parents do some repairs to the nest. Both Romeo and Juliet then typically leave the area, only to return again in early September to start the bonding and mating process all over again. Eggs are laid early to mid November, with hatching 35 – 37 days later.
The DC Eagle Cam
This past season was the second year of streaming for this cam, watching an eagle family in Washington, DC. Mr. President and The First Lady (Mr. P & TFL) arrived at the National Arboretum for the 2015 nesting season. That year they successfully raised one eaglet (DC1) to fledging. After that season, AEF worked with the National Arboretum to install cameras and microphones to enable live streaming of nest life.
These cams start streaming around the first of the year and TFL typically lays her eggs in mid February. Fledging, the eaglets flying from the nest, occurs in June, however, the eaglets will stay in and out of the nest for the next several weeks as they improve their flying skills.
The Southwest Florida Eagle Cam
This cam site differs from the first two in that it is sponsored and maintained by a private business. This site also has a history of drama, sadness, and triumph.
The original parent couple, Ozzie and Harriet, were first streamed live to the world in October of 2012. That season they successfully raised two eaglets to fledging. The sponsor of the nest camera prefers that the baby eaglets not be named, so these two eaglets are known as E1 and E2. Sadly, each of the next two nesting seasons, one of the two eaglets that hatched died of unknown causes before fledging.
In March of 2015, a week before E6 successfully fledged, Ozzie was found injured and disoriented by Florida Fish and Wildlife officials. He was taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center where he spent more than three months recuperating from a broken clavicle and other injuries. He was released back to the wild in June. In September, Ozzie was spotted near the nest site, but after fighting with another male eagle in the area, Ozzie was reinjured, taken back to the rehab center, and passed away.
The past two nesting seasons Harriet has had a new mate, M15. Two seasons ago Harriet laid two eggs. E7 hatched January 26, 2016, with E8 following one day later. A little over a week after that, viewers noted that something appeared to be wrapped around E8’s foot and tethered to the nest. Wildlife officials approved a rescue, and E8 was taken from the nest to the same rehab center where Ozzie had been treated. A monofilament fishing line was wrapped so tightly around E8’s leg it was cutting off circulation and causing swelling. The line was removed, and E8 was returned to the nest after three days. He was accepted back into the family, and eagle life went on normally as both E7 and E8 grew closer to fledging. E7 successfully fledged first, with E8 taking a little longer to work up his courage.
But E8’s trials weren’t over. While perched on a branch of the nesting tree at night, both E7 and E8 were attacked by an owl and knocked to the ground. E7, with more flying experience, was able to make its way back to the nest. E8, however, was missing for a week. Workers from the rehab clinic, who had spent countless hours searching for him, finally found him a few hundred yards from the nest in thick underbrush. Once again, he was taken to the clinic, where he was treated for a broken leg and severe dehydration and remained at the rehab facility for almost four months before being released back to the wild in the nest area. E8 was last seen soaring high and free, beginning his journey that may have started a little rough, but held the promise of better things to come.
As new seasons are preparing to start for all of the eagle sites, it is a good time to bookmark the web pages and follow these families on their incredible journeys. But every site has a disclaimer for a reason. They remind us that we are watching a wild bald eagle nest, and that, although we hope for good outcomes, there are many perils that eagle families face, and watching at times may be difficult. But I’m sure, after just a few sessions, you will become a regular viewer, too.
Photo provided by the American Eagle Foundation www.eagles.org.
About the author: Cheryl Poliquin is a resident of Sun City Carolina Lakes. This article was originally published in a different format in Living @ Sun City Carolina Lakes.