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If you’ve visited the Kids & Parents section of the KPL website lately, you might have noticed the small live webcast located in the lower right-hand corner of the page. A quick click of the play icon and you’ll see a direct live video feed from the Raptor Resource Project (RRP) that lets you keep tabs 24/7 on a family of nesting bald eagles high above a fish hatchery in extreme northeast Iowa.
The Raptor Resource Project (a 501(c)(3) non-profit) directly manages more than thirty falcon, owl and eagle nesting sites across the US, while advocating preservation and research through lectures, education programs and its own website.
Perched some eighty feet above the ground on private property near the fish hatchery in Decorah, Iowa, the nest itself is massive; nearly six feet across, four feet deep, and weighing roughly half-a-ton. This same nest was featured in American Eagle, a 2008 PBS documentary by Emmy-winning cinematographer Neil Rettig, the first-ever HD feature about bald eagles.
Last October, a team of experts installed two treetop cameras overlooking the nest. The main camera is mounted about five feet above the nest and streams live 24/7, while the other has pan-tilt-zoom capability and is operated remotely whenever there is significant activity. Infrared night vision (invisible to the eagles) allows for nighttime viewing. The live stream has been surprisingly captivating to watch—I occasionally keep it open in a small window on my desktop. (The accompanying live audio stream even makes a great natural soundscape!)
In late February, their work began to pay off as a nesting female laid her first egg, while the male dutifully kept the nest supplied with food. The second egg came along three days later on February 26, and a third on March 2.
The pair took turns tending to the eggs while the other left the nest, only to return a short time later with something fresh to eat—usually a fish or small animal. At times, the birds battled seemingly insurmountable odds; heavy show, bitter winds and torrential rain.
The first egg hatched on April 2, the second and third followed just days later. Three tiny bundles of helpless fuzz that within a few short weeks, have since grown to become clumbsy yet capable young eaglets, now able to stand, stretch, and move freely around the nest. When the adults are absent, the youngsters often sit near the edge of the nest and peer over, perhaps wondering when and from where lunchtime will arrive. By the end of June (after roughly 11-12 weeks), the young birds will learn to fly and leave the nest on their own. The cycle then begins again.
So next time you’re on the Kids & Parents page, drop in on our new friends. And you won’t be alone. Since it began, the Decorah Eagles website has received a whopping 98.3+ million views, with several tens of thousands of viewers watching at any given time!