Viewership climbs toward 1 million with months of adventure awaiting.
With more than a million viewers worldwide, and the news broadcasted widely to local and national audiences, you might already be well aware the spotlight on Pennsylvania’s most well-known bald eagle nest has turned to two new stars.
|Its mate in the background, an adult bald eagle feeds two newly hatched chicks Wednesday at a nest near Codorus State Park in Hanover, Pa. The chicks appeared in the nest on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, as hundreds of thousands of viewers watched through use of the Pennsylvania Game Commission's "eagle cam."
Those keeping their “eagle eyes” on the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s bald eagle cam spotted new chicks in the nest soon after daybreak on consecutive mornings Tuesday and Wednesday. For wildlife lovers everywhere, it was reason to celebrate; both eggs that had been incubated since mid-February in the nest near Codorus State Park in Hanover successfully hatched.
But for the growing number of eagle-cam viewers, there’s more good news.
Things are just getting started.
As long as the nestlings remain healthy, there will be increasing activity at the nest in the coming weeks and months. Things will start off slowly, with an adult at the nest almost all the time brooding the chicks to keep them warm and safe. But like most newborns, they’ll eat a lot, too.
The young birds will develop feathers in three to four weeks, will be able to walk around the nest in six to seven weeks, and in about three months, they’ll be ready for their first flights.
Their growth is rapid and, if all goes well, is sure to captivate what already has been an enormous audience.
The chicks’ hatching created a surge in viewers that briefly strained the capacity of servers, as nearly 129,000 devices connected to the stream Tuesday, many of them joining as word spread the first chick had hatched. But capacity was added, and on Wednesday even more devices – 155,000 – were used to access the stream without issues.
For the new nestlings, of course, the future is a great unknown, and that’s one of the things that’s likely to keep viewers coming back for more. Viewers of the eagle cam should understand, though, the live stream gives them the opportunity to view wildlife in its natural setting in real time, and just about anything could happen. The Game Commission does not plan to intervene if the birds become distressed, or appear to be in danger.
Often the best intentions to help wildlife end up doing more harm than good, and the best solution is to let wildlife remain a part of nature.
Tim Sears, the founder of HDOnTap (hdontap.com), which provided the camera and streaming services for the eagle cam project, said the company is proud to partner in an effort that’s brought joy to so many.
“Along with the selfless care of the new little eaglets from some dedicated parents, it’s amazing to watch the demand and popularity of the live stream grow,” Sears said. “The warm comments from viewers and how the live stream has inspired all ages to learn more about eagles and conservation puts a big smile on everyone’s face here at HDOnTap!"
With months remaining to go, this year’s eagle cam already has done much to educate the public about bald eagles, said Lori Neely Mitchell, who heads up the eagle cam project for the Game Commission.
For instance, on March 6 – the day after scenes of a snow-covered adult eagle stubbornly keeping two eggs warm and dry drew national attention – more than 3,500 people viewed the Game Commission’s educational film on eagles, which, like the eagle cam, also is available at the agency’s website. And about 900 people a day have been watching the film since then.
“We certainly share in all of the excitement that has gone along with these two chicks hatching,” Neely Mitchell said. “But at the same time, we’re excited, too, to lead a project that has helped to educate so many people about bald eagles, and about nature, in general.”
Game Commission endangered bird biologist Patti Barber pointed out that, without people, bald-eagle populations never could have rebounded to such amazing levels. In 1983, when the Game Commission launched what would become a seven-year program to restore bald eagles to the state, Pennsylvania had only three known bald-eagle nests – all of them located in Crawford County in the northwestern corner of the state.
At present, Barber said, the number of bald-eagle nests spread throughout the commonwealth might be approaching 300.
And it’s people who paved the way for that comeback, by passing laws to ensure clean water, a healthy environment and protections for eagles and other wildlife.
“Knowing that history shows the importance of engaging people’s natural interest in eagles, ensuring they’ll continue to thrive in Pennsylvania and elsewhere,” Barber said.
The Game Commission’s bald eagle cam can be viewed at the agency’s website, www.pgc.state.pa.us. Click on the icon titled “Bald Eagle Live Stream,” then click on the window available on the page that opens.
The eagle cam would not be possible without the efforts of many partners. In addition to HDOnTap, Comcast Business, the Friends of Codorus State Park, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Sunbelt Rentals and Swam Electric Co. joined in the effort.
Dave Dombroski, vice president of Comcast Business in the Keystone Region, said the project already has proved fulfilling.
“We’ve all been captivated and heartened over the past few days by the amazing images of the newly-hatched eaglets and the dedicated care they are receiving from mom and dad,” Dombroski said. “Knowing how quickly these eaglets will grow, we’re sure our sense of wonder will do the same as we get to watch them mature.”
While viewers always are welcome online, those making trips to view bald-eagle nests in person are reminded to keep their distance.
Different pairs of eagles have different levels of tolerance for human activity near nests. Nests built in spots with a lot of surrounding bustle, often offer opportunities to view from a distance without invading the eagles’ comfort zone. But other nests are more vulnerable to disturbance.
Federal safeguards exist to protect nesting eagles, and keep people at a distance.
Signs are posted around many known nest sites, but the guidelines apply regardless of whether signs are posted.
Approaching an eagle nest too closely could frighten off the adults and cause them to abandon the nest or prevent them from keeping eggs or chicks at the proper temperature. Frightened eaglets might also jump from the safety of a nest, then have no way to return.
More tips on nest-viewing etiquette can be found on the bald-eagle page of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s website, www.pgc.state.pa.us.