Watch at eagle-cam-live
Live from the nation’s capital: Recently hatched bald eagles nesting high in a tree on the grounds of the Metropolitan Police Academy in Southwest Washington can be viewed right now on the National Geographic website.
A webcam provided by the National Geographic Society is recording live the activities of the two eagle chicks and their parents, who are feeding them fish from the Anacostia River, National Geographic said in a statement released to the media today. “The nest, about five feet wide and made mostly of sticks, sits about 80 feet up in a tree. John Mein of the Metropolitan Police Department installed the camera in a nearby tree.”
Washington’s Chief of Police Cathy L. Lanier came up with the idea to set up the cam. “It is fitting and exciting that our national bird has made a home on the Metropolitan Police Department’s Academy grounds,” said Lanier, who has long been interested in the eagle pair that chose the site for its home. “We look forward to viewing the eagles in their habitat.”
The nest is one of two bald eagle nests in Washington: A webcam on the second nest will go live later this spring.
“It’s amazing to see these eagles so at home in an urban environment,” said Jonathan Alderfer, editor of National Geographic’s bird guides. “You can actually watch these eagles at night because there is so much city light on them. I watched late last night and saw the babies moving around,” Alderfer told News Watch. Does the city light harm the birds? “I doubt it,” Alderfer said, “particularly as these birds have had a successful nest on this site before.”
Follow Jonathan Alderfer’s tweets about the eagle webcam @NatGeoBirder. Readers can ask Jonathan questions about the eagles through the commenting section below this post. He will post responses on News Watch.
The eagles are thought to be the same pair that has nested in the area for several years, said Craig Koppie, raptor biologist at the Fish & Wildlife Service’s Chesapeake Bay field office in Annapolis, Maryland, who is advising the project.
“A bald eagle nest usually contains one to three dull-white eggs, which the parents take turns incubating. Eggs hatch in about five weeks, and the eaglets start their flying lessons around the 8th week. Generally the female stays on the nest while the father’s job is to bring in the food,” Koppie said.
“I’m looking forward to watching the eaglets building their strength to fly,” Alderfer said. “They have to work those muscles, so you will be seeing them flapping their wings quite a bit before they make the leap,” he said.
Bald Eagles Are Eating Anacostia River Fish
Food for this pair of eagles is generally fish — catfish, shad or perch — plucked from the Anacostia, according to the National Geographic release.
But are the fish from the notoriously polluted river harmful to the eagles and their young? “That’s a good question,” said bird expert Alderfer. “It would have to be researched. Chemicals can build up in a top predator of a food chain. There might be some warnings for human consumption of fish from the Anacostia River, so it’s possible that there could be long-term effects on eagles eating fish from the river. But the damage wouldn’t be done right away. It’s a long-term rather than a short-term problem,” he said.
Alderfer said he particularly looked forward to watching when a fish is brought in to the nest, to see how delicately the parent bird plucks and feeds it piece by piece to the young birds. “It is also interesting to watch how the chicks compete, to see if one takes more food than the other,” he said.
Bald Eagles Rebounding in Anacostia Region
“When America adopted the bald eagle as the national symbol in 1782, the country may have had as many as 100,000 nesting eagles. The first major decline of the species probably began in the mid to late 1800s, largely due to loss of habitat. Believed to be killers of livestock, the large raptors also were frequently shot,” National Geographic said in its statement.
“Later, the pesticide DDT decimated the birds by destroying the females’ ability to create strong eggshells. By 1963, with only 487 nesting pairs of bald eagles remaining, the species was in danger of extinction. The bald eagle was one of the first animals to be placed on the Endangered Species List when it was created in 1973.
“A 1972 ban on DDT and other conservation efforts gradually reversed the eagles’ fate, and the bald eagle was removed from the list in 2007. Since then, birds have multiplied in the Chesapeake Bay area, steadily moving into habitats closer to humans than their ancestors would have tolerated. They remain protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
“In 1996 youths from the Earth Conservation Corps, under a permit from the Fish and Wildlife Service, began releasing young bald eagles from Wisconsin at the National Arboretum in Washington in an attempt to restore the birds to the Anacostia region. At that time the Anacostia was one of the nation’s most polluted rivers, and the communities along the river some of its most violent. In subsequent years, several pairs of eagles have built nests along the river, and the river is rebounding.”
The live-streaming website launches “Wired Washington,” a multi-species, multi-partner, citizen-science effort led by the police and two local youth groups — Earth Conservation Corps and Wings Over America, National Geographic’s statement said.
“The youths’ mission is to use habitat mapping and public awareness to protect wildlife in city neighborhoods. Some of the youths leading the research effort are part of the District of Columba’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Service, the juvenile justice agency responsible for providing safe and stable residential and community-based programs to youth who have been committed to its care,” according to the National Geographic release.
“Citizens are encouraged to log observations made while watching the webcams on the Earth Conservation Corps site at www.earthconservationcorps.org. Schoolchildren who are part of the TAGS DC program also will observe and document the eagles’ activity from boats on the Anacostia River. Wired Washington collaborators include the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the D.C. Department of the Environment, Pepco and Rob Bierregaard of the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University. All digital streams and satellite tracks will be stored on hard drives as part of research on raptors in an urban environment.”
David Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.
He edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and major initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world. More than 50,000 readers have participated in 10,000 conversations.
Braun also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship.