A few months ago, millions of people turned their attention to a pair of bald eagles who were preparing to hatch three eggs in Decorah, Iowa.
Bob Anderson, director of the Raptor Resource Project, set up a webcam to capture footage and it went viral, captivating viewers around the world and providing them with the opportunity to watch a live stream of the raptors 24/7.
“It has turned into what is probably the world’s most logged-on wildlife education tool on earth. Hundreds of thousands of people have been able to see the wonder of nature, the cruelty of nature and the awe of nature. It has been an incredibly popular wildlife education tool. I think it’s unparalleled,” said Anderson.
Unbeknownst to them, they’ve become stars. Now people who’ve been following them are getting ready to watch them leave the nest. They three hatchlings have been stretching, or “branching” and moving around the tree preparing to fly this week. On Saturday, one actually took its first flight.
Anderson has plans to capture one of the eaglets and fit it with a tracking device in hopes that they will be able to follow it for a few years.
“Everybody asks what happened to the babies from last year, and I can’t answer that. I don’t know,” Anderson told Wired. This time, he plans to set up a “Where is the Decorah Eagle today?” website to track the raptor’s movements. “I’m really excited about that. We’ll finally be able to find out where these babies go.”
He also plans to return to this family of eagles next November and is also considering adding cameras to watch red-tail hawks and peregrine falcons.
In an interview with Iowa Outdoors, he added that the eagles aren’t just providing an educational opportunity, but changing people’s lives.
“I get calls sometimes from people in nursing homes that can’t wait to get out of bed in the morning to go to the community room so the can log on to their eagles. I got an email from a woman that said my husband and I quit talking for ten years. We don’t talk at all. But whenever we boot up the computer to look at the eagle cam, we talk like newlyweds. The eagle cam touches many people in many different ways, he said.
Catch a brief glimpse as one of the fledglings returns from its second flight and watch them live on Ustream.
Photo Credit: U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Northeast Region Bill Buchanan/USFWS