WASHINGTON (April 16, 2013)—The private lives of recently hatched bald eagles nesting high in a tree on the grounds of the Metropolitan Police Academy in Southeast Washington can now be viewed around the clock 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. 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.
The idea to set up the webcam came from Washington’s Chief of Police Cathy L. Lanier, who has long been interested in the eagle pair that chose the site for its home. “It is fitting and exciting that our national bird has made a home on the Metropolitan Police Department’s Academy grounds,” said Lanier. “We look forward to viewing the eagles in their habitat.”
The nest is one of two bald eagle nests in the District: a webcam on the second nest will go live later this spring.
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. 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.
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.
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, Md., 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. Food for this pair of eagles is generally fish — catfish, shad or perch — plucked from the Anacostia.
By the age of 6 weeks, the young are almost as big as their parents and are marked by black feathers on their heads and bodies; bald eagles don’t take on the characteristic white feathers on their heads until they are 4 or 5 years old.
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.
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.
About Earth Conservation Corps
Earth Conservation Corps is a nonprofit environmental youth development program that engages the strong minds of muscles unemployed, out of school youth in the restoration of the heavily polluted Anacostia River. Through their environmental service the youth gain pride in becoming part of the solution while earing hands on workforce and leadership skills.
About National Geographic Society
The National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. Founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” the Society’s mission is to inspire people to care about the planet. It reaches more than 450 million people worldwide each month through its official journal, National Geographic, and other magazines; National Geographic Channel; television documentaries; music; radio; films; books; DVDs; maps; exhibitions; live events; school publishing programs; interactive media; and merchandise. National Geographic has funded more than 10,000 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects and supports an education program promoting geographic literacy. For more information, visit www.nationalgeographic.com.