Tuesday at dusk under a dusting of snow, mama eagle snuggled down over two eggs, buried her head in her feathers and appeared to fall asleep.
At 6:49 p.m. she roused, stretched her wings and stood over three eggs, clearly visible on live close-up, night-vision video.
Last year the bald eagle pair, nesting on a hill overlooking the Monongahela River in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Hays, reached local rock star status as crowds of bicyclists gathered on Three Rivers Heritage Trail to catch a glimpse.
This year the birds’ celebrity has gone global. Since the December 2013 installation of a high-tech wildlife surveillance camera and live video feed, nearly 10,000 unique Internet viewers have tuned in to the Pittsburgh bald eagle reality show. In high-resolution detail, they’ve watched and listened as the couple remodeled, mated, laid their eggs, ate, groomed and seemed to be bickering over domestic details — all the intimate behaviors of a nesting bald eagle pair.
“There are 1,400 people watching right now,” said Bill Powers, president of PixController, at about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. The Murrysville video security company donated and maintains the camera equipment. The eagle video feed has been accessed nearly 32,000 times.
“They’re logging on from all over, everywhere,” he said. “… We had a call from CBS News in New York. They want to broadcast live when the eggs hatch.”
Mr. Powers said the eggs are expected to hatch between late March and early April.
“People enjoyed watching as the eggs were laid, but there’s no guarantee they’ll all hatch,” he said. “And if they do, the chicks might not all live.”
Mr. Powers said the eagles are not expected to deliver another egg, but four-egg clutches have been documented.
So far, the camera has captured mostly pleasant scenes of domestic life in an eagle nest, with a few grisly dinners. Mr. Powers said viewers should prepare to eventually witness the sometimes savage natural world.
“One of the reasons the eggs are all born at different times is part of the raptors’ way of survival,” he said. “The first egg laid is generally the first to hatch and [the chick] is expected by the parents to live. The others may not get fed as much, and if one dies they’ll just throw it out of the nest. We wouldn’t interfere. You don’t mess with nature. That’s what happens.”
Around midnight Wednesday, with temperatures in the low 20s, the Hays eagle-cam powered down temporarily to allow the batteries to recharge.
The video project is a public-private partnership of PixController and the Pennsylvania Game Commission, with some supplies and assistance donated by a few tech and communication companies and a server from the WildEarth content provider.
PixController also has donated video cameras near peregrine falcon nests in Oakland and Downtown, nine screech owl nests and two deer trails. Last year, the company’s video cameras focused on a black bear den in Minnesota and rare rhinoceroses in Sumatra and Borneo. The National Geographic Channel broadcast PixController video of a rare gorilla in the Congo.
The popularity of the eagle camera has brought inquiries about placing cameras on remote commercial work sites and an osprey nest at Moraine State Park.
First Published February 26, 2014 9:17 AM