New reality show: Millions watch bald eagles nesting

Reuters News
|
Posted: Apr 03, 2011 8:53 PM

By Eric Johnson

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A new reality show has gone viral on the Internet featuring a life and death struggle, a love story and a birds eye view of -- an eagle family.

More than 11 million views from 130 countries have been recorded by a streaming video of a nesting bald eagle couple in Decorah, Iowa. The first egg was laid in February, the eggs were incubated for weeks and the eaglets finally emerged.

The idea was hatched by biologist Bob Anderson, who installed a live video feed from an 80-foot aerie, now showing at http:/www.ustream.tv/decoraheagles.

Anderson, 60, is the executive director of the Raptor Resource Project, a non-profit based in Decorah. He attributes the popularity to the clarity of the feed which allows a close view of the majestic birds with white feathers on their head and dark bodies, and the tiny, vulnerable, fuzz-ball eaglets.

"It is the wonder of having modern technology linking to the wonder of nature, and once people watch it they take ownership," Anderson told Reuters on Sunday from his post about 100 miles northwest of Dubuque, Iowa.

The first egg was laid on February 23 in the nest that is about six feet in diameter and four feet deep. The first eaglet started to emerge from its shell on Friday. The second hatched early Sunday morning and the final egg should hatch in next three days, Anderson said.

"The world loves it," said Anderson, who now operates dozens of bird cameras across the nation and receives funding from Minneapolis, Minn.-based energy company Xcel Energy.

Viewers riveted by every move of the newly-hatched eaglets witnessed a near-tragedy on Sunday afternoon.

"One of the adults was picking up broken egg shells and picked up one of the babies and actually lifted it out of the nest bowl," Anderson recounted. "The baby started crawling the edge of the nest and looked like it was going to fall down into the sticks and get trapped," Anderson said.

As the tension mounted and phone calls and e-mails from concerned viewers poured in, Anderson considered cutting the feed.

"It was ugly and grueling to watch," Anderson said. "But after about 20 minutes the baby crawled back to its mother and crawled underneath her," Anderson said, exuding relief.

(Reporting by Eric Johnson; Editing by Greg McCune)