Tue April 5, 2011
The Two-Way

'Eagle Cam' Soars With Millions

Update at 8:35 a.m. ET, April 7: It hatched! There's video here.

Update at 12:15 p.m. ET, April 6: If you're just tuning in, the "Eagle cam" zoomed in on the third egg a few moments ago, and there appeared to be the start of a crack. Then mom settled back down on it. So there could be a hatching anytime now. We've added the line "third egg to hatch soon?" to our headline.

Our Original Post:

A pair of bald eagles and their two (soon to be three) offspring who live atop a tree in Decorah, Iowa, have been watched in recent weeks by about 11 million people thanks to a webcam set up by the Raptor Resource Project, a nonprofit organization that works to restore and protect the Midwest's population of falcons, eagles, ospreys, hawks and owls.

What is it about this show that attracts so many viewers?

"This is a positive," project executive director Robert Anderson told All Things Considered host Melissa Block this afternoon. "Everybody, when they log on they go 'wow.' ... It's just good to have something positive" to watch with so much bad news in the world.

And something quite positive is likely to happen in the next day or so, Anderson says: the hatching of the third egg.

More from their conversation will be on ATC later. We'll add the as-broadcast version of the interview to the top of this post later.

This is the third year that the project, with support from Xcel Energy, has had a webcam trained on the nest and streaming on the Internet. Here it is (there's a short ad at the start).

Some folks have also been having having a bit of video fun. The mother eagle has become known to some fans for her "shimmy" when she settles down in the nest. Here's a mashup video called Decorah Eagles - Dueling Corn Husks (The Decorah Shimmy). Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.



A webcam in Decorah, Iowa, has brought new meaning to the term bird's-eye view. The Eagle Cam broadcasts a 24-hour live stream of an American bald eagle nest 80 feet up in a cottonwood tree. And over the past few months, 11 million Internet viewers have tuned in to watch the mother eagle lay three eggs, two of which just hatched with another due to emerge any day now.

Bob Anderson is the director of the Raptor Resource Project, and he joins us from mission control near the base of that tree where the eagles are nesting. Bob, welcome to the program.

Mr. BOB ANDERSON (Director, Raptor Resource Project): Well, good afternoon. It's my pleasure to speak with you.

BLOCK: And when we say mission control, you are operating actually two cameras, one of which has this pan-tilt-zoom. You can get in really, really close on this eagle nest.

Mr. ANDERSON: Yes, we can. We can actually blow up the head and make it full-screen, so you can look right into the eye.

BLOCK: Which I'm doing right now, I should say. She's beautiful.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANDERSON: And the cameras are cryptic. They're hid under artificial leaves. And so they really pay no attention. She's now just standing up as we're talking. Well, she's just moving around, I guess. And I have to reposition the camera right now.

BLOCK: And this movement that I've been seeing her doing this week, she sort of moves her body from side to side, sort of nestling down over those little eaglets.

Mr. ANDERSON: Yes, in fact the people have given that a name. They call it the Decorah Shimmy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANDERSON: And there's a YouTube video out there. In fact, right now we can - actually, one of the babies is sticking its head up from under her breast. I'll zoom in on it right now.

BLOCK: Why don't you describe those eaglets to us. They're just a couple of days old.

Mr. ANDERSON: They're just little, teeny fuzz balls right now, just, you know, a little bit bigger than maybe a goose egg. And they're really, really fuzzy, and they're really, really cute at this stage.

BLOCK: They are cute.

Mr. ANDERSON: And then soon they'll grow into ugly teenagers. But right now they're little puff balls, and they're just really, really, really, unbelievably cute.

BLOCK: Yeah, they're white, and they have sort of black around their eyes, right?

Mr. ANDERSON: Correct, correct.

BLOCK: Now, you're panning back a little bit, and I'm seeing in this nest, which is huge, well, snacks. Let's just call it lunch or dinner.

Mr. ANDERSON: Well, I mean, there we can see - I'm going to pan right now. Here we see a crow, you know, the remains of a crow. Here's the remains of a muskrat. And then here's the remains of a rabbit.

And behind the female that's incubating, she just finished feeding the babies a small (unintelligible).

BLOCK: As I'm talking to you, Bob, there are about 166,000 other people doing what I'm doing right now, watching this stream. Why do you think this is so popular this year?

Mr. ANDERSON: We've been asking ourselves this question a lot. And I think the quality is incredible. I mean, we're reaching a broad audience with - and we have also a great camera. And - but I really think it might be more than that. I think this - just everybody, this is a positive. Everybody, when they log on, they go wow. And I think this just moves everybody, you know, gives them a little bit of pleasure.

BLOCK: She's looking very alert right now, this mom. She is looking all around, like something is bothering her.

Mr. ANDERSON: Yeah, there is - you know, there must be something up there, up in the sky, I'm assuming. It's probably her mate. He's above the camera, up in the tree, and she was talking to him. But in a minute, he might drop down, and they might do an exchange.

BLOCK: Bob Anderson, thanks for talking with us about what you're seeing on the Decorah Eagle Cam today.

Mr. ANDERSON: Melissa, it was my pleasure.

BLOCK: Bob Anderson directs the Raptor Resource Project in Decorah, Iowa.

(Soundbite of music)


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