Well, they’re not called anything Kardashian and you won’t see them on E-TV, but K-10 and K-26 are making headlines around the world and are visible 24/7 on a live webcam.
Who are they?
They’re American bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) about to become parents. On February 26, they laid their first egg at Pelican Harbor on Santa Cruz Island, off California’s coast not far from my homestead. Egg #2 came about on March 3. The parents have mated for life and will come back to this nest year after year.
These birds represent the first generation of naturally raised bald eagles in the Channel Islands in 50 years. The last “wild” bald eagle was seen on Santa Cruz in 1949.
1949? Yep. The bald eagle population of these islands was wiped out by DDT poisoning. After a long hard fight and much tender loving care, on June 28, 2007, bald eagle fledgling A-63 took flight on Santa Cruz the same day the federal government was able to take this magnificent bird off the endangered list. When I watched the video of this flight at our county fair, I had tears streaming down my face.
It’s been a long time coming.
The bald eagles of Channel Islands are truly Survivors. In 2002, the Institute for Wildlife Studies re-introduced the bald eagle to Santa Cruz Island. Eaglets hatched at the San Francisco Zoo were placed in “hacking towers” at 8 weeks of age. Hacking is the technique of raising young birds in the wild by human hands. It worked.
Today there are 7 nesting eagle pairs on Santa Cruz Island. When the hatchlings are about 7 weeks old, scientists will tag them and assign them numbers but not names. The Institute for Wildlife Studies will name the babies. Cruz, Lemuw, Spirit, and Sky are past eaglet names.
This group has been working hard to restore the eagles to the islands, and their web-camera is one of the best fundraisers for the non profit organization. For the past five years, people around the world including countless schoolchildren follow the events of the nest on live camera stream.
If you’d like to witness a miracle, click here:
The only eagles found exclusively on the North American continent, the bald eagles are true “native Americans, ranging from Alaska to the northern border of Mexico and from Pacific to Atlantic coast. Adult males weigh about 7 to 10 pounds with a wingspan of about 6 feet. Female adults are heavier at 14 pounds, with 8-foot wingspans. They can live about 30 years.
Bald eagles build their nests in large trees near a river or coast. These large nests start out about 5 feet in diameter but build up to as much as ten feet after years of nesting. Mom lays 2 to 3 eggs and shares nesting duties with Dad during the 35-day incubation period.
About three months later, the eaglets fly, hunt, and tend themselves. Of course they’re not “bald”. It’s the white crown that gives them the name and makes them so recognizable. These white head feathers, along with the white tail feathers, do not appear until the eagle is about four years old. These magnificent birds are protected under the National Emblem Act of 1940 and cannot be hunted, harassed, or sold.
Interestingly, this majestic bird fought hard for its place as our national symbol. When the Great Seal of the United States was adopted on June 20, 1782, the bird received unofficial but by no means widespread approval. In January 1784, Benjamin Franklin stated, ” The bald eagle…is a bird of bad moral character…the turkey is a much more respectable bird and withal a true original native of America.”
Little did he know! Can you imagine a seal like the one here?
In 1789, when George Washington became the first president, the American bald eagle became the official bird. President John F. Kennedy later wrote: “The Founding Fathers made an appropriate choice when they selected the bald eagle as the emblem of the nation. The fierce beauty and proud independence of this great bird aptly symbolizes the strength and freedom of America.”
Watching a bald eagle in fight is high on my bucket list. In the mean time I‘m checking out the webcam, and hope you’ll do the same!