April 26, 2009

Webcam Viewers Saddened Over The Death Of Bald Eagle Chicks

Webcam viewers of the only bald eagle nest on Santa Cruz Island are mourning the deaths of two bald eagle chicks that died only days after hatching, The Associated Press reported.

Nature lovers across the country were given the chance to witness the re-growth of the declining bald eagle population on a set of islands off the Ventura County coast, but that excitement lasted only a few days.

Webcam viewers posted their sighting experiences on an Internet chat board hosted by the Nature Conservancy, a worldwide conservation organization.

The mother eagle "” K-26 "” laid the first egg of the year in February and viewers had been closely watching the nest online in hopes to witness the eagles grow into adults and replenish the waning population.

However, half of the birds hatched in that nest have died in the past four years, including the latest death on April 14.

The webcam program was started in 2006 by The Nature Conservancy in an effort to allow online visitors to observe wild eagle nesting behavior and even witness the hatching of the first wild-born bald eagle chicks on the Channel Islands in over half a century.

However, viewers have mostly been witness to a series of unfortunate events.

The webcam fans learned that a car killed a chick they had watched grow old enough to leave the nest in 2007. And another eagle flew down and knocked two chicks out of the nest, despite being captured and rehabilitated later by conservationists.

Dave Garcelon, president of the Institute for Wildlife Studies based in Arcata, Calif, said bald eagles have a high mortality rate in the their first year of life but generally have a good chance of survival after that.

Channel Islands National Park has released 61 bald eagles in recent years and some 30 remain. Many have reached the 5-year mark where they're able to begin mating and building nests.

Although webcam viewers hope to see many more chicks hatch in years to come, most are still coping with the latest tragedy.

Garcelon said the site had received an outpouring of emotion.

"When people are so into watching birds and something like this happens, they take it pretty hard," he added.

While Garcelon said that biologists are not sure exactly what killed the newly hatched chicks, the possibilities range from disease to contaminates.


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