As you spend your days stuck in a windowless office, spring is springing right outside -- right now. But do not despair, I am here to bring you the very best of what the season has to offer: ugly baby birds. That’s right, nests full of clumsy, flightless fuzzballs. Better still, you can enjoy these hatchlings from your desk in real time, tracking their growth throughout the week until hopefully, you crack out your cubicle shell and greet the outside world again. Without further ado, here’s my round-up of the season's best nest cams.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's hawk cam is trained on Big Red and Ezra, two red-tailed hawks that are nesting within a light fixture, high above Cornell University’s athletic fields. These large raptors often breed on human-made structures and are common throughout the United States. Big Red and Ezra successfully raised three hatchlings last year, and they’re already busy incubating three more. When the brood hatches, you’ll be able to play a game of "Guess-That-Carcass," while trying to figure out what the adult hawks have brought home for dinner. Favorite meals from last year included chipmunks, pigeons, and squirrels.
When to Tune In: Now! Big Red is sitting on three eggs, which should start hatching between April 12-19.
Tips: Big Red, the female, has a darker head than Ezra and a band on her right leg. Ezra, the male, is smaller, lighter, and has a band on his left leg.
Want even more red-tailed hawk action? Check out this New York University cam. In 2011, two hawks built a nest on the 12th floor window ledge of NYU’s Bobst Library. Returning for their third year in a row, parents Bobby and Rosie laid three eggs sometime in March.
When to Tune In: Now! Those shells should start cracking any day now.
This Cornell cam broadcasts the lives of two great-blue herons nesting in Ithaca, New York. Common throughout most of the U.S., these large, greyish blue water birds wade on the shores of lakes and rivers, waiting to impale fish, frogs, and small mammals with their long, slender bills. Last year’s birds raised five endearingly ugly chicks. There hasn't been any nesting yet this year, but on March 22, a heron was seen rearranging some sticks at the four-foot-wide nest (a sign that the pair will settle in soon). So be on the watch for uncoordinated grey fuzzballs chowing down on meals of partially-digested fish -- vomited up special by mom and dad.
When to Tune In: Very soon! Last year’s eggs were laid between March 28 and April 6, and hatching began on April 27.
Tip: If the same heron pair returns this year, you can identify the male by his missing right, rear toe.
Behold our majestic national bird … in Canada. The Handcock Wildlife Foundation has multiple bald eagle cameras, but the Delta Cam provides the best view. Nesting near the Tsawwassen Ferry, British Columbia, these bald eagles are incubating two eggs, laid in early March. Red-tailed hawks originally built this nest, which has been used intermittently between both raptor species -- kind of like a timeshare. As the eaglets become adolescents, don’t let their brown heads fool you -- bald eagles don’t grow their white plumage until they are about five years old. The eagles raised two chicks last year, but unfortunately, one died unexpectedly when it was very young. Here's hoping for better luck this time around.
When to Tune In: Now! The eagles are incubating two eggs, which should hatch between April 11-15.
Tip: Just can't get enough eaglets? Check out this list of all 25 bald eagle cams in North America.
The Audubon Society’s Hog Island cam gives you a lakeside view of an osprey nest in Bremen, Maine. These birds' names are Steve and Rachel, after ornithologist Steve Kress and biologist/writer Rachel Carson. Nice touch, Audubon. Like bald eagles, ospreys are large birds of prey that dine almost exclusively on fish. The piscivores breed in the northern U.S. and Canada during the summer and then head south for the milder winters of Central and South America. (Ospreys in Florida are homebodies and stay put year-round.)
When to Tune In: The ospreys should return in early April and lay eggs in late April or early May. Hatching will start in mid-June, roughly 40 days after the eggs are laid.
Tip: Check out this video of ospreys dive-bombing fish.
The Cornell’s Hellgate Osprey cam is now streaming out of Missoula, Montana, for your viewing pleasure.
When to Tune In: Last year, parents Iris and Stanley laid three eggs in mid-May that started hatching on June 19.