The great outdoors has gone viral. Efforts to raise awareness about animal conservation and habitat preservation have found a new niche adapted specifically for the online community. And this community of online enthusiasts was treated, recently, to a one-of-a-kind event: This past week a family of bald eagles in Decorah, Iowa, saw the first of their three hatchlings emerge from its egg.
Perched 80-feet in the air, the Decorah eagle couple could have done a lot worse when they settled atop a tree located at a fish hatchery. The first of three eggs was laid on February 17, and if you are anything like me you have remained practically glued to the computer screen since, trying to figure out how to tell the difference between a male and female eagle (There is no difference, as far as my eyes can see.). For well over a month, thousands of viewers have tuned in to watch a bird sit (and sit), ruffle about, get comfortable, sit, pick at things, and sit in its nest.
For weeks, the birds tended the nest and eggs, each taking his/her turn to do what I can only assume to be eagle things like grabbing fish from a lake and posing on the top of flag poles. By the time the estimated hatch date arrived there were upwards of 65,000 visitors to the site waiting to get a look at the fuzzy little bundles of joy. Just one day past its original due date, the first eaglet was born, sending high pitched shrieks of joy through the field…actually that was just me, I was really excited.
A day after the first hatching, the second eaglet had shown signs that it, too, was ready to make its debut. “The bald eaglet will probably take at least 12 hours, and possibly as many as 48 hours to break completely from its shell,” so says Wired. “The first chick will have a head start on its siblings and will likely enjoy being the biggest eaglet in the nest for months.” So true; in the days to come, we will see one more eaglet cracking through its shell, making for a grand total of three Muppet-looking birds, waving their little heads around as if they were tied to strings. For now, the first—and oldest—of the babies has dibs on just about everything.
The live stream of the Decorah eagle nest will continue to capture every moment of the baby birds early lives until they grow large enough to leave the nest, giving viewers an opportunity unlike any other to witness this little-known aspect of the lives of bald eagles. It is hoped that by making the bald eagles’ lives accessible to the public, interest will swell up around the animals, and from this, a growing desire to protect these animals will materialize.
In the past, this idea of broadcasting the lives and births of wild animals has worked in gathering support from the masses, specifically with a family of black bears in Minnesota. This past January, Jewel a black bear in the Ely woods was caught on camera giving birth to her cubs in a den equipped with cameras. A global audience had followed the family for some time, reveling in the good times and reeling in the loss of one of the bears to local hunters.
It is a trend that continues with the Decorah eagles who continue to rack up views with each passing day, proving that in some way these large birds are adapting to the age of technology. With their newfound internet fame, the future is looking brighter for the animals—just as long as we keep watching.
Photo Credit: kpl.gov/uploadedImages/Staff_Blogs/Blog_Images/decorah-eagle-2-240.jpg