Apr 13 2011

Spinster aunt compulsively watches eaglecam

Male eagle feeds fish shards to E2. Screengrab from Decorah eaglecam.

Surely, because you have not spent the past week under a rock or in a cryogenic stasis of some kind, today’s heartwarming nature crap-cam recommendation is unnecessary. I allude to the Decorah bald eagles with which you are undoubtedly already obsessed, so I don’t need to explain that they’re a nesting pair raising 3 recently-hatched offspring in a giant tree in rural Iowa while hundreds of thousands of people spy on them 24/7 via sneaky webcam.

Everyone I know is obsessed with these eagles. My mother calls me every morning to express her anxiety that the smallest eaglet isn’t getting enough to eat, and to impugn the sub-par parenting skills of “the mother.”

You know, it’s funny, she used to call me every morning to say the same thing about my sibling Tidy’s sub-par parenting skills. My mother considers herself a professional mother, but it might be more accurate to say that, like so many women, she is a professional mother-impugner. My nieces, for example, may be tolerably well adjusted but it’s no thanks to Tidy’s howling ineptitude; if she’d only take Mom’s advice! Likewise, Mom is convinced that she could raise eagles better than eagles do, but the truth is that if you left her alone with this brood of hatchlings they’d all be dead as doornails in about 24 hours, mostly on accounta the mater’s longstanding reluctance to rip dead squirrels apart with her beak.

You know a viral video has spiraled completely out of control when it starts affecting medical care. I suffered my biennial ankle sprain a couple days ago, so I went to my sporty doctor to see how much gruesome surgery I’d be needing this time around. She gave the appendage — the usual Guam-sized purple foot dangling brokenly from leg, etc — a perfunctory eyeball, but seemed to entirely lack the comforting injury-related focus that an aunt with an excruciating ruptured ligament looks for when visiting a medical professional.

“I can’t stop thinking about those eagles,” she said, absently poking at the afflicted limb. “I haven’t seen them since this morning. Is the third one getting anything to eat? I wonder how long before they can regulate their own body temperature? Can you believe the nest weighs over a ton? I bet it really stinks with all that rotting meat lying around. Huh? Oh, just ice the crap out of it. And tell the eagles ‘hi’ for me!”

Horribly, there has suddenly appeared, on the website next to the video stream, a very distracting Twitter/Facebook feed. The content of the comments is precisely the kind of sentimental anthropomorphizing vapidizations you would expect from gawkers at a zoo whose exposure to birds has apparently been limited to Foghorn Leghorn and Tweety. The adult eagles are “Mom” and “Dad”; the hatchlings are “babies,” and the situation is universally perceived as precisely analogous to a human nuclear family.

“Oooh, baby just pooped lol!”
“More housework for Mom hehe!”
“A woman’s work is never done….lolz!”
“Aw momma is tired!”
“Why doesn’t she feed the little one, she is a bad mom!”
“Aww, daddy is feeding the babies bwekfast! Good daddy!”

And of course the trolls — “I kill eagles ery day mmm Eaglette taste good” [sic] — who “ruin it fore evrybody!” [sic]

My favorite tweet so far: “Is there a pecking order?”

It is remarkable that human people can look at eagles — creatures that inhabit Volkswagen-sized piles of twigs 80′ up in trees, that lay eggs, that have no hair and no boobs, that eat raw squirrels, that can fly, for crying out loud, and that in pretty much every other respect that is germane to discourse on human social structure are the very antithesis of H. sapiens — and see themselves. And by “themselves” I mean the patriarchal paradigm. In a nest of eagles.


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  1. norbizness

    I want an owl mother-cam, because to my knowledge the only thing that rhymes with towelette is owlet.

  2. Pinko Punko

    vowelette- the only partially elided syllables of regional dialects.

    scowelette- the look on my face when another Whataburger cup blows out of some stupid jacked up truck bed onto my windshield and/or dead lawn area.

    J- some horrible nature pics at the 3Bulls, but Savage Death Islandism exerted itself with a gator sighting and a heretofore unnoticed by myself Hackberry butterfly.

    Patriarchy exerted itself with a kid on a leash, but that was more a nod to Savage Death Islandism.

  3. buttercup

    We saw eagles at Dollwood last year. There’s quite a rescue and rehab outfit there, oddly enough. Some of the educational eagles that can’t be rehabilitated into the wild live in giant flight cages in the park, complete with volkswagen-sized nests. Lovely beasts. And quite skilled at casting the fabled jaundiced eye. I took a few lessons from them there.

  4. Jezebella

    Great. Now I’m all worried because I don’t see the third eaglet. Also, one of them is way too close to the edge. It’s making me nervous.

    On the upside, the chat stream seems to be disabled at the moment.

  5. buttercup

    (Dollywood, please excuse my failure to adequately proofread before hitting “blame”.)

  6. Val

    I was quite the bummed-out animal doc when one of my “high-status” patients (a Peregrine falcon whom I’d been treating for a nasty foot infection) did not return to his erstwhile “owner” after his first rehab flight. (I think he had mended well enough to hunt for himself, but I still worry)

    Oh yeah, owner had all his permits in order – he had waited YEARS for the privilege of caring for one of these beautiful raptors.

  7. Kea

    I’m hooked! I turned it on just now to see a long session of dead squirrel feeding, where the third chick sat alone for a while before half heartedly asking for some food. One suspects that this chick will die.

  8. Cheryl

    Why do we root for struggling small creatures (baby eaglet #3), but rush to impugn struggling big creatures (mama eagle and her alleged sub-par feeding techniques)? I want the runty eaglet to thrive too, but yeesh. Thanks for taking a pacifist stance in the mommy wars, which we apparently can’t even confine to our own species.

  9. IrishUp

    Ah yes, rooting for the underdog while hatin on the moms. As USian as apple pie. Or bald eagles.

    The coastal Maine eagle webcam site claims that it is rare for the entire clutch to make it. If wee eaglet doesn’t, it’s very likeley to end up like the squirrel.

    This link below avoids much P-anthropomorphizamations of eagle behavior – at least, it puts such words into scare-quotes. Bonus, it opens with Walt Whitman:

  10. minervaK

    I hadda give up on crittercams, despite my near-fatal obsession with all non-human sentient beings, because of the awful shit that kept happening to the subjects, usually as a result of some stupid human intervention, or failure to intervene. I would relate some anecdotes, but I can’t, because it makes me cry and I’m busy crying about other stuff right now. However, here’s hoping those little eaglets make it.

  11. Jill

    When I tried the Maine eaglecam it was nothing but a bunch of trees flailing wildly in some sort of nor’easter.

  12. IrishUp

    Hmm; they go wonky, and we’ve got a coastal storm round here, but this seems to be working now:


  13. IrishUp

    Also, minervaK, hugs or tray of comfy things if wanted. With you on the untimely demise of critters. Heck, the song “Wildfire” is verboten ’round here.

    The coastal Maine clutch has not hatched yet, but the nest was home to one of the most successful reproducing pairs of eagles that have been studied. There is reasonable evidence that this is a different female; it’s not known whether the pair split(eagles pair for the longterm, but are apparently quite ready to split up as soon as things ain’t working!) or something happened to her.

  14. Comrade PhysioProf

    Fucken eagles.

  15. Lovepug

    I seem to remember some heartwarming nature crap show on Discovery or Animal Planet or somesuch channel where it was explained that it was normal for the raptors in question to end up neglecting one chick at some point and feed only the other. Inevitably, the weak chick would die and the stronger would live.

    The deep voiced narrator explained that it some sort of natural selection thingey wherein the stronger chick will be the one who goes on to carry on the genes.

    Nature can be cruel.

    All I can say is that if natural selection applied to dogs there would be no such thing as pugs.

    Seeing eagles in the wild is pretty moving. I once saw a golden eagle near my house and almost wrecked my car I was so excited to see it.

  16. Pinko Punko

    “I hate the f*cking Eagles”-The Dude

    That is irony fruit cocktail right there.

    We love pugs, regardless of the weight of survival of the fittest daring them to go outside, LP!

  17. Amaz0n

    I am an avid appreciator of all birds and especially raptors, and have the good luck to live in rural Nebraska, where avian-based entertainment is truly legion. Our little town has a matched pair of bald eagles that comes back every year, much to our delight, and other raptors and large birds are plentiful. We also have the annual crane migration to herald the coming of spring. Upriver this year, a hooded crane (native to Asia) was spotted traveling with a flock of sandhill cranes. It was the talk of the state.

  18. MPMR

    I hadn’t been watching the eagle cam, but that just goes to show my shocking lack of dedication to the heartwarming nature crap on the internet. I do walk by a bald eagle nest on my way to work every morning. Sometimes they fly right over me and look as big as automobiles. Wait, automobiles don’t fly. Something big that flies.

    However, I did just read that this internetian pair successfully hatched and fledged 3 eaglets last year AND the year before. So 1) maybe eaglet 3 won’t die, and 2) maybe she knows what she’s doing, and 3) maybe the world could just give her an effing break.

  19. stacey

    MPMR, that’s good to know they fledged three twice. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if one (or even two) fell off the back of the fish truck at any time.

    My mother-in-law has had the privilege of observing the same pair of nesting eagles for the past ten years and has kept exhaustive notes on their doings. They’ve lost about a third of their chicks in that time – one year they lost both chicks at once.

    Anyway. I’m just posting to say that I wish people would watch more BBC Nature documentaries so they’d stop talking smack about animals.

  20. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Last year there was a nest of peregrines under the bridge leading to my workplace. Those eggs/hatchlings were avidly watched, even on weekends. As were the pair nesting outside my niece’s 80th floor window downtown (plenty o’pigeons nearby, a regular raptor Whataburger).

    Momma Eagle is doubtlessly the best parent she can possibly be. As are most moms of my acquaintance.

  21. Jill

    In the rafters of Twisty Motor Pool Carport there has been an Eastern phoebe nest for the past 4 years. No way to tell if it’s the same phoebe, but that nest gets refurbished annually. It’s starting to resemble an Antoni Gaudí masterwork. Not as over-the-top as eagles, I guess, but still awesome. Nearly impossible to photograph due to its camera-foiling proximity to the roof, but Eastern phoebe chicks“>here’s a shot of the four fledgelings I managed to get a last year. The nest is the size that your cupped hands would be if they were holding a beer can.

  22. nails

    My recent series on pitbulls has made me aware of the freakish degree that people anthropomorphize animals. Its gross. It is the same way that people assumed their planet was in the middle of the solar system, and later, the galaxy. Godbags also seem to suffer from this delusion that they are really important to the universe. So important that the earth won’t exhaust its resources, and believe that their being on the planet and praying is the sole reason for the resources existing in the first place.

    Well, now I’ve depressed myself. Time to go lay some more tile.

  23. tinfoil hattie

    We have heartwarming robins in a nest in our camellia bush. We can watch through the slats in our bathroom blinds as the robins build, then sit on the nest. I acknowledge that the nestlings tug at our hearts every year. I think this is their 4th year.

    Last year we had a “family” of cardinals in a spruce outside my son’s bedroom window. That was heartwarming and entertaining also. Naturally I hope they come back, because everything is about me.

  24. Lovepug

    @Amazon – Cranes! Lucky!

    If anyone finds themselves channel surfing and comes across the Nature program about crows, I highly recommend it. Good show.

    I agree about not anthropomorphizing animals, but if we did not do that, we would not have the hilarity that is I Can Haz Cheezburger.

  25. gwyllion

    bald eagle don’t care – bald eagle don’t give a shit!

  26. Josquin

    Loathe as I am to intrude on heartwarming nature observations, I couldn’t help but rush over here, holding down the vomit, after listening to earnest concerned news pundits covering the brouhaha about the mom who is painting her son’s toenails pink in a J.Crew catalog photo.

    Yes, of course the people who lambasted the photos hate girls and gay children, but what about all the people who chimed in “against” the lambasters, saying that THEY TOO allowed their male children to dress in girls now and then, but that these male children
    grew up to be “JUST FINE”. (not gay or effeminate)

    I need Jill input. What is the deal with pink?

  27. Josquin

    Also, just read a recent experiment in which young women were shown two sets of TV ads:

    One set showed women in stereotypical activities: doing housework, making decisions about “beauty” products, wearing lingerie, etc.
    The other set showed in women doing neutral activities like pumping gas, reading a book, climbing a ladder, etc.

    Both groups were then evaluated as to their confidence about their ability to perform math or science tasks.

    The group who watched the stereotypical ads showed a significant decrease in their math-science confidence level.

    Fuck. Even LOOKING at that shit ONCE messes with us. And to think we are immersed in it, day after day after day, from the moment we are born.

    Need Jill input.

  28. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Tinfoil Hattie: Your cardinals will probably be back. They tend to return to their previous nesting place. There’ve been a family of them in the apple tree outside one a my bedroom windows since I can remember.

    Lovepug: Crows scare the cornchips outta me. No particular reason, and I’d never, ever do anything to harm them, but still.

  29. Jill

    “Need Jill input.”

    ¡Viva la revolución!

  30. Josquin

    Also. Every time I go to the grocery story I end up at the check-out with the same dude wearing his pink breast cancer awareness pin. He has taken pains to add the phrase “save second base” to the pin. Should I point out to him that that stupid phrase is insulting and makes me cringe, or should I just rip the stupid thing off his shirt?

  31. Jezebella

    My response, Josquin, would be: “Curing breast cancer isn’t about your desire to grope boobies. It’s about saving lives. That pin is fucking offensive.”

  32. Josquin


    I like that, and will quote it to said dude the next time I see him wearing his pin. I also may make my own pin with that on it.

  33. CootieTwoshoes

    Crow Planet is a great read for anyone interested in how “wild” flora & fauna intertwine with urban environments. She also discusses the visceral fear some humans have of crows, which isn’t a recent development. Crows have been feared & despised as harbingers of Death for ages. Not like the patriotic, freedom-loving bald eagle.

  34. Friend of Snakes

    Josquin, your grocery store dude’s “save second base” reminds me of the bumper stickers I saw twice years ago which said, “Stop Rape. Say Yes.” The first time, I was so stunned I let the car get away. The second time, I followed the driver until he pulled into a bank parking lot, got out of the car and LEFT THE DOORS UNLOCKED. Ha! Unfortunately, the only products I could put to good use MacGiver-style were a gallon of bleach and a gallon of liquid detergent. Which I did so all over his front seat. Also unfortunately, I lacked pen and paper with which to advise that micro-dick why he had been let off so lightly.

    The moral of the story: don’t forget your pen and paper next time you go grocery shopping.

  35. Amos

    I too fear the crows. They’re clearly up to something.

    Tool-making crow

  36. tinfoil hattie

    CROWS! A group of them together is called a “murder.” IF THAT AIN’T EVIL, WHAT IS?

  37. MPMR

    Tinfoil, what’s the collective noun for blamers?

    Around here, like gnus, it would have to be “an implausibility of blamers”.

    Or a charm of blamers? A revolution of blamers?

    Oooh. An island of blamers. It’s obvious now that I think about it.

  38. ew_nc

    Crows are incredibly smart, and they rock. That is all.

  39. ew_nc

    8:02 pm, EST. If those eagles don’t eat that trout, I will.

    Google Ads need to quit asking me if I want to sell my Eagle’s Nest timeshare.

  40. CootieTwoshoes

    Or a savage of blamers.

  41. tinfoil hattie

    Island. Yesssssss. I like it.

  42. Josquin

    Shall we say an archipelago of blamers? You know, for diversity’s sake and whatnot.
    (But aren’t there some islands that don’t allow snakes? I’m getting a vibe…. a patronizing vibe…)

  43. eilish

    The eagle cam has a better picture than falcon cam, but falcon cam doesn’t have ads.
    I hate it when mega-corporate-world-domination has a benefit.

    To concentrate on the much more pleasant heart-warming nature crap: absolutely amazing to see an animal so close.

  44. Milly goes for a walk

    Nice eagles. Hate the anthropomorphizing. In the Mummy world myself at the moment and it’s the universal “he” that gets my goat. “look at that cow- he’s eating some grass” aargh! It’s constant; he, he, he, and so maddening.

    We don’t watch any tv these days (trying to avoid the brainwashing ) but I’ve allowed my son (3) to watch 1 nature doco on the weekend with us (we’re huge David Attenborough fans). Love the creatures but really wish the shows had radfem commentary. I cringe at the “harems” and males winning the “right” to mate with females. Blech, whaddayado? Soaking in patriarchy. There’s no way out it seems. Repair to Savage Death Island.

  45. Milly goes for a walk

    Just to let you know Jill and all, I changed my name from Amelia coz I saw someone with some pretty whacky ideas posting under that name at Pharyngula and thought to myself, ” hmm better choose something a little more idiosyncratic”. Thanks


  46. Must Think of a Name

    I saw a documentary about a bearded Californian dude from a university who followed and observed the same group of bonobo monkeys in Africa over the course of decades. Initially, he hated them. They were total bastards, out and out bullies, treated each other terribly. Then one day, some of them ate rubbish from a human venue and something in it made them all die. The Californian dude was distraught even though he didn’t like them. But then he realised that it was only the more domineering of the bonobos who had made the fateful trek to the rubbish bin that day, the females and the milder and bullied themselves males had been left behind. Without those bullies, bonobo society was transformed. They all got on great guns and it was like the Age of Aquarius had come for this group of bonobos. Traditionally a very cranky animal, this peace loving crew maintained their state of loving perfection down through the generations, right up to the present day.

    Heartwarming? Yes.

  47. ginger

    Crows are completely excellent.

  48. buttercup

    Just watched the eaglets chowing down on a nice bit of bloody something for breakfast. All three seemed to be eating well. One of the adults then gathered them all underwings and settled in for a post-prandial nap. That’s what I call living! And heartwarming.

  49. Ginjoint

    Friend of Snakes, I salute you.

  50. Hermionemone

    How about an enfilade of (sharp-shooting) blamers?

    My parents used to have a cottage on the upper reaches of the Columbia. There was a big dead tree on the bluff overlooking the lake, where a pair of bald eagles would sit, or if the eagles weren’t there, the ospreys would sit, watching for fish, furry mammals or (so we were told) small pets and children to pass beneath their gaze, or maybe they were just having a rest, emitting a fierce screech from time to time.

    We watched them soar over the lake, one would fold her wings and hit the water with a big splash, then struggle to lift a fish verging on ‘too heavy’ (only big ones are worth bothering with, I guess). She’d fly over us flapping like mad, showering diamond sparkle water drops and wrestling to keep a hold on the live fish squirming in her claws, holding it steamlined headfirst into the wind to take it somewhere to eat or most likely feed to the chicks. One could hear the whooshing of wind through their wings as they worked so hard trying to get altitude.

    Their nest proper was down the valley a klick or two, but they’d sometimes stay and eat it in our local snag. If the crows were around, two or three would harass the eagle trying to make her drop the fish (never saw it work but they kept on trying). Eagles: very cool on webcam, also quite amazing to see in person if you happen to be lucky enough to live under an eagle tree.

  51. Friend of Snakes

    My memories of being able to watch both ospreys and bald eagles fishing in the same place was in Everglades National Park. Even when the sun was in your eyes you could judge which was which by the way they positioned the fish after they snagged them. The ospreys always shifted the fish so they were head first, or at least parallel to their bodies; the eagles didn’t bother to take that (seemingly) aerodynamically sensible move and held the fish securely sideways or flopping some other which ways.

    Of course, this being a Huzza for Eagles Thread, we shouldn’t mention how often a crafty eagle simply stole its meal from a conspecific or cousin rather than do its own damn fishing.

  52. Kea

    Aw, I was just watching Lady Eagle nestle the little ones under her wings, when Gentleman Eagle flies in with a small trout. He just leaves it there and flies off again. Lady Eagle doesn’t move and the fish lies on its own, twitching a bit for a while until it dies.

  53. Pinko Punko

    gwyllion, did bald eagle just say that with honey badger attitude?

  54. speedbudget

    Am I the only one who grew up watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild America? Sheesh. The first thing you learn watching that shit is that one of the eaglets MUST DIE.

    My dog killed a groundhog as was her wont in her younger days, and the turkey buzzards were having quite a lovely afternoon tea with it. I was starting to worry about my house and yard being covered in vomit, but I needn’t have worried. Suddenly, the buzzards were all on the roof, huddled together. Out of nowhere an eagle arrived and just took off with the whole carcass. Yay for eagles saving my house!

  55. Tarantella

    Granted this isn’t about eagles – or even birds for that matter – but I remember seeing an interesting documentary on the social structure of hyenas, which are mostly female-dominated.

    Of course, the narrator called the male hyenas wimps.

  56. buttercup

    How much they grow every day! And all three appear to be doing fine. Utterly captivating.

  57. Jill

    Buttercup, don’t get too attached! Speedbudget is right; one of those chicks is goin’ down.

  58. buttercup

    But they’ve successfully raised three chicks two times before, and they live in what must be the Golden Corral for eagles, adjacent to an all-you-can-eat fish hatchery. I feel good about this!

  59. Cara

    Unfortunately, the only products I could put to good use MacGiver-style were a gallon of bleach and a gallon of liquid detergent. Which I did so all over his front seat. Also unfortunately, I lacked pen and paper with which to advise that micro-dick why he had been let off so lightly.

    The moral of the story: don’t forget your pen and paper next time you go grocery shopping.

    *gets up from laptop, sets coffee down, puts post-it pad and pen in outside purse pocket*

  60. Cara

    I saw a documentary about a bearded Californian dude from a university who followed and observed the same group of bonobo monkeys in Africa over the course of decades. Initially, he hated them. They were total bastards, out and out bullies, treated each other terribly. Then one day, some of them ate rubbish from a human venue and something in it made them all die. The Californian dude was distraught even though he didn’t like them. But then he realised that it was only the more domineering of the bonobos who had made the fateful trek to the rubbish bin that day, the females and the milder and bullied themselves males had been left behind. Without those bullies, bonobo society was transformed. They all got on great guns and it was like the Age of Aquarius had come for this group of bonobos. Traditionally a very cranky animal, this peace loving crew maintained their state of loving perfection down through the generations, right up to the present day.

    Heartwarming? Yes.

    *puts “antifreeze” on shopping list for D00d Brownie recipe*

  61. Jill

    Bonobos! It never ends!

  62. buttercup

    One of the babies must have perfected it’s poop aim, as the view appears to be a uniform grey blob at present.

  63. Jezebella

    No it’s not poop! It’s bloody well SNOWING there! What the hell?

  64. CLD

    It’s snowing and sounds like a friggin’ blizzard. Gave me goosepimples.

  65. buttercup

    It’s melted now, the update box says the eaglets are fine. Both parents are in the nest and drenched. What the hell indeed.

  66. Kea

    It’s still SNOWING! Argh.

  67. Kea

    Now there’s a blog!

  68. buttercup

    Everyone present and accounted for and grown considerably this morning. Whew. It’s damn near the end of April, it can stop with the snow already.

  69. Jill

    I can’t understand why those dumb birds would wanna build a nest in Iowa. They should move down here. It’s about 97 degrees in the shade.

  70. pheenobarbidoll

    Does anyone else notice the mama seems to be bored out of her mind?

  71. buttercup

    They both have a bit of a dull routine. Sit on babies. Rearrange sticks. Clean up mess from babies. Peel and feed fish to babies, snatching the odd bite for self. Switch places with other adult. Go get a fish. Drop fish in nest, preferably still twitching for the amusement of the Blamers watching. Repair to adjoining branch to look magnificent and watch out for any predators stupid enough to think they can snatch a baby. Switch places with other adult. Repeat until babies can fly.

  72. stacey

    They seem to have stolen a feather duster from somewhere.

  73. Jill

    Hey buttercup, the way you describe eagle-nesting it’s remarkably similar to horse-keeping, if you substitute “hay” for “fish.” I don’t switch places with another adult, but I do sit around on fences looking magnificent. When I’m not picking up their shit, feeding, watering, or prying rocks out of their feet.

  74. buttercup

    But Jill, do you eat hay on purpose?

  75. Kea

    Now the eaglets are being left alone. As they grow, do both adults need to go fishing?

  76. buttercup

    Kea, the adults are never far away. They perch close by, they’re just giving the chicks some space and some room to grow.

  77. Kea

    Dammit, it looks cold again. Everything is drenched and with nightfall it will freeze.

  78. Kea


  79. buttercup

    In case anyone’s still paying attention, they’re making test hops and starting a little nest to nest flying. they’re expected to fledge by the 25th of June. All growed up!

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