Wildlife reality show
Web cams open a window into the lives of bald eagles.
In the northeast Iowa town of Decorah, two pairs of nesting bald eagles have become an international phenomenon.
Not only do they have a constant stream of live video, but avid watchers are snatching the best episodes — capturing the many dramas that go on in and around the nest — and posting them on Youtube for everyone to enjoy.
The Raptor Resource Project has dubbed them Nestflix and posts links to the highlights on its Facebook page, along with regular and often entertaining updates and explanations.
In January, the eagles court and get the nest ready. In February, the females lay eggs. About 35 days later, the eggs hatch, and in April and May, viewers can watch the eaglets grow.
Drama in Decorah
In recent years, events have unspooled in episodes of what naturalists jokingly call "As the Nest Turns.''
The biggest drama at the original Decorah nest came in 2018. Mom Decorah's three eggs had hatched and all was going well until April 18, when Dad Decorah, devoted father to 31 eaglets over the years, disappeared and a UME, unidentified male eagle, began hanging around the nest.
After a fruitless search — and an international uproar from concerned viewers — experts in Decorah decided Dad was gone for good.
That fall, a new suitor, dubbed UME2, came to the nest, and Mom accepted him as her mate, so he became DM2, or Decorah Male 2. Read the whole story here.
Two nests are covered by webcams in Decorah. Of five eggs laid in 2019, one was crushed, one eaglet died and the three remaining eaglets fell or jumped out of the nest, dogged by biting black flies.
All were rehabilitated by SOAR, an avian care center in Manning, Iowa, and in September, the eaglets known as D33 and DN9 were released. D32, who broke his leg, was released the next spring.
In 2020, Mom Decorah and DM2 hatched three eaglets; the middle one, D35, died of lead poisoning shortly before her first birthday.
In 2021, Mom Decorah and DM2 confused everyone by abandoning their web-cam nest for a new location, then returning for visits and occasional renovations of the old nest. In February, they began incubating eggs in the new nest but returned occasionally to drive other eagles away from the old nest.
There's still a camera on the old nest, and in 2022, viewers got to watch geese laying and hatching eggs in it.
But in 2023, a new couple took it over, HM (Hatchery Mom) and HD (Hatchery Dad). In late February, HM laid two eggs.
A second webcam focuses on another country nest called Decorah North, where the original eagles were known as Mr. and Mrs. North.
The 2018 nesting season was disastrous, with a first egg collapsing. A second, late laying produced two eaglets who died of a black-fly strike in their first week.
Mr. North returned to the nest the next year with a new mate, dubbed DNF for Decorah North Female. This pair has been more successful, with DNF laying two eggs in mid-February and hatching them in March. In 2022, both eaglets successfully fledged.
But in 2023, just as DNF began to lay eggs, multiple eagle intruders appeared. On Feb. 23, she stopped incubating her sole egg to focus on defense. Mr. North did the job valiantly until March 16, when he, too, abandoned the egg, leaving it buried in snow.
Interlopers in Minnesota
There's also a Minnesota DNR web cam on a bald-eagle nest in St. Paul. A banded female had produced three eggs a year since 2013, usually laying in mid-February.
In early 2019, a new pair kicked her and her mate off the nest and took it over. But despite acting like lovebirds and rarely leaving each other's company, the two didn't produce eggs.
In 2020, however, the female laid three eggs the second week of February. All hatched, but the youngest died, likely due to lack of food. And that summer, another of the eaglets hit a power line and died.
In 2021, the female returned with a new, younger mate. In mid-February, she laid two eggs, and they hatched.
In 2022, the male disappeared from the nest, possibly a victim of bird flu. In the summer, another male appeared and seemed to be accepted by the female.
In 2023, she laid two eggs in mid-February. However, one later broke.
The DNR shares updates and details on its Facebook page.
There's also a Friends of Minnesota Nongame Eagle Cam Facebook group, whose members share screen captures and comment on the eagles, whom they have named Sid and Nancy.
The Trio Nest in Illinois
On the stretch of the Mississippi River between Fulton and Savanna, Ill., the Stewards of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge have installed webcams in several locations.
One is on an unusual bald-eagle nest near Lock and Dam 13. The first pair, Hope and Valor, tried to raise eaglets. However, Valor was not the greatest dad, and when another eagle showed up, Hope accepted him as her main mate, and Valor didn't seem to mind.
Hope, Valor I and Valor II successfully raised eaglets, with Valor I eventually getting the hang of parenting.
In March 2017, however, Hope disappeared from the nest while fending off an attack from two other eagles and is presumed dead. The two Valors successfully raised two chicks while defending the nest from subsequent attacks.
In late fall, a new, young female appeared on the nest with the Valors. She was named Starr, and she has laid eggs every subsequent year and successfully raised eaglets with the Valors.
The two Valors are dutiful parents — sometimes even bickering over who gets to sit on the eggs — and their home is known as the Trio Nest.
In August 2020, however, derecho winds blew the nest down. The trio built a new one nearby, and web-cam viewers can observe from a distance. The Stewards' Facebook page includes entertaining updates and observations.
Another camera is in the Great Spirit Bluff peregrine falcon nest box high above the Mississippi near La Crescent, Minn. It was occupied by Newman and Michelle for many years, producing at least 22 young, but in 2020, Michelle failed to return to the nest in late February, as usual.
She was replaced by a female now named Nova. Peregrine falcons lay eggs between late March and mid-April, and the eggs hatch in the first half of May. In 2020, a great horned owl snatched both chicks, first the month-old Floyd, then his sister Elise.
In 2021 and 2022, a falcon named Zooey won Newman's heart, and the two tended three eggs.
The Minnesota Nongame Wildlife Program also has a webcam on a pair of nesting peregrine falcons.
In the northern Chicago suburb of Evanston, there's a webcam on a peregrine falcon nesting box on the Evanston Public Library. However, Nona and Squawker left the nest in 2017 and have not returned.
For five years, Pebbles and Bam Bam successfully raised young at a peregrine falcon nest box on the Consolidated Grain Elevator in Savanna. However, in 2015, Bam Bam failed to return.
In the northern Minnesota town of Ely, the North American Bear Center has web cams in the dens of its resident bears, Ted, Lucky and Holly.
Also in Ely, you can watch the resident wolves at the International Wolf Center.
On Isle Royale in Lake Superior, Rolf Peterson and John Vucetich have posted fascinating journal entries and amazing photos from their long-running Winter Study of the island's wolves and moose.