The Nongame EagleCam stream started on December 28, 2012, but its story began in 2003.
Dale Thell, a building maintenance employee with the MN DNR, first discovered the huge nest in 2003. DNR biologists noticed it was an active eagle nest and kept a close eye on it for the next few years. Eventually, they reached out to the Nongame Wildlife Program staff and talks of installing a live webcam at the nest began.
In 2012, live webcams were not common. It took several years of discussions, fundraising and planning, to install the EagleCam and determine how to livestream the view from the nest. With donation dollars, Nongame purchased the camera and equipment, and on December 28, 2012, Floyd Security, Xcel Energy and MNIT staff installed the first camera. Rob from Floyd Security painted it brown to blend in with the tree and Xcel Energy generously provided the large bucket truck needed to reach the 100 foot height of the nest. The day the cam was installed, the nest was completely snow-covered, suggesting the nest was not yet active for the season. But when we turned the camera on for the first time, we realized we were wrong; three eggs were already in the nest and the EagleCam had begun!
For 10 years, thousands of viewers from around the world tuned in to watch the EagleCam. It streamed in nursing homes, classrooms, homes, and more. On the morning of April 2, 2023, the nest fell from the tree. The massive weight of the nest (which weighed over 2,000 pounds) and the spring storms compromised the integrity of the supporting branch, causing it to break. Staff rushed to the site and after a couple hours of searching found the newly hatched chick deceased, ending the last chick season at this nest.
The EagleCam will return, likely at a different nest. For now, please enjoy this celebration of the first EagleCam nest.
- Ten years of eagles
In 2013, we turned the EagleCam on for the first time on January 10 and to our surprise, there were already three eggs in the nest!
This was the earliest ever recorded egg-laying by bald eagles in Minnesota (per Minnesota Ornithologist’s Union (MOU). Unfortunately, the eggs were left unattended during some extremely cold temperatures and none of the eggs hatched this first year.
EagleCam viewers quickly noticed a band on the female eagle. After a few weeks of getting close-up snapshots of her leg, we were able to get numbers and identify the reason she had a band. She had been a patient at the Raptor Center in 2010!
The eagle pair continued visiting the nest throughout the season and the decision was made to keep the camera going.
In 2014, we had our first hatch on the EagleCam!
The pair from the previous year continued using the nest. Three eggs were laid and all three hatched! However, after a few weeks it became apparent that one of the eaglets was having difficulties moving. It was removed from the nest and taken to the Raptor Center, where it was discovered it had an Aspergillosis infection, likely due to a broken elbow. A difficult decision was made and the eaglet was euthanized.
The other two eaglets survived and fledged in late spring.
In 2015, we had another first on our EagleCam. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite as celebratory as our other firsts…
Three eggs were laid and two chicks survived to fledging. One of the chicks was too weak and died only a few days after hatching. This was our first fatality caught on the EagleCam Nestlings compete for food by “bonking” or rising up and pecking other nestlings with their beak. This behavior is instinctual and helps them compete with other eagles later in life.
It is always difficult when a chick dies, . A nest is considered successful if 50% of the chicks survive and sometimes the death of a chick can be a brutal experience to witness. It is important to keep this in mind as you watch the camera and turn it off if it gets too disturbing. This was also the first year we banded the eaglets, a tradition that has continues to this day. Banding the eaglets allow us to identify the chicks in the future. Since bands are not telemetry devices we can’t actually track them but if they are ever injured, found at a later date, or show up on a camera they can be identified by the band numbers.
In 2016, the first egg arrived in January and we captured video of each egg laying. We had a few camera issues in 2016 that limited our ability to watch hatching and chick rearing. All three chicks survived and were banded on April 13. The eaglets were identified as two females and one male, each weighing between 5 and 6 pounds at six weeks old! All three eaglets fledged.
Our 2017 EagleCam season was on track as a “normal” season. Three eggs were laid and all three survived to fledging (two female, one male). Everything was going smoothly until…
We had our first camera failure. The camera shut down in April before all three chicks were banded and we needed to get a replacement for our 2018 season.
After the camera failure in 2017, our 2018 EagleCam season kicked off with a new camera!
Thanks to your generous donations to the Nongame Wildlife Program, we were able to get a new camera with features like infra-red (night vision) and sound. With this new technology in hand, we watched as the season unfolded:
The resident male disappeared early in the 2018 season. The female managed to lay three eggs, but all failed to hatch. She wasn’t able to spend much time on the eggs as another male swooped in and began fighting for control of the nest.
No eggs were laid in our 2019 EagleCam season as the fist fight for the nest continued.
The primary resident female fought off rivals for control of the nest, but she was ultimately ousted by the end of the camera season. The new female and her mate stayed on territory but did not produce eggs in 2019. This was also the year of our polar vortex!
This “new” female is actually our current resident female! She has stayed on the nest since 2019. But her time on the EagleCam hasn’t been easy…
2020 EagleCam season was the first year with our new pair. They were both very attentive to the nest and the three eggs they produced.
Unfortunately, only one of the eaglets from this season survived. One perished in the nest likely due to food scarcity and hypothermia. The remaining two eaglets fledged, but E1 died a few weeks later after flying into a power line.
This was a difficult year for us and our viewers. It is never easy losing one of the eaglets, let alone two in one season. Nature can be beautiful, but it can also be brutal. Please keep this in mind as you watch the camera and take a break if it gets too difficult.
This year was also the first time since 2016 that we did not band the eaglets due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The male from last year did not return and the female found a younger mate, who we believed to be about five years old. This was likely the male’s first time mating, as he displayed a lot of inexperience when it came to caring for the two eggs. However, both hatched and this time both eaglets survived to fledging!
We were able to band the eaglets and determined that one was a female and one was a male.
In 2022, our resident pair returned for one of our most tumultuous seasons yet…
Two eggs were laid and hatched. Unfortunately, the male disappeared in the middle of April. Competition for food began between the chicks, resulting in one falling from the nest. We brought the young eagle to the Raptor Center, but he was unable to overcome his injuries.
The remaining chick grew strong and was banded. She fledged the nest in late June and was the last eaglet to fledge from the nest.
The male never returned to the nest and may have died from the H5N1 Avian Influenza outbreak that hit Minnesota last year.
Near the end of our 2022 season, a new male began visiting the nest. The pair bonded over the summer and we eagerly awaited the next season, not knowing it would be the last at this nest.
The year the nest fell.
This was a turbulent, final season. The new male at the nest was very attentive and had been fully accepted by the female. The pair had two eggs, the first laid on February 15 and the second on February 18.
On February 23, we were hit with a blizzard. The eagles were diligent in protecting the eggs and we posted an image from the cam that went viral! Unfortunately, on February 28, one of the eggs broke. When the adult male stood up, it was broken and attached to his brood patch. We are uncertain why the egg broke. This is very rare and had never happened in the nest before.
The pair continued to incubate the remaining egg and defended the territory from intruders, including a raccoon visitor that tried to get into the nest at night. The egg hatched on Sunday, March 26 to the joy of many.
On April 1, we were hit with yet another blizzard. Heavy snow descended on the nest, adding to its already 2,000+ pounds. In the morning of April 2, the supporting branch broke and the nest fell. Staff rushed to the site and began searching for the chick. Unfortunately, it was found deceased.
The adults were seen visiting the area the rest of the day and the morning after, arriving with fish and sticks. The pair were also seen mating, indicating that their bond is still strong. We don't know if they will rebuild in the same area, but eagles are loyal to their territory and the location has everything they might need.
A bittersweet ending
We couldn't have predicted that our 10th year running the EagleCam would also be the last at this nest. The camera was always meant to provide a glimpse into the life of eagles, and the EagleCam has been great at demonstrating that the natural world is unpredictable, but beautiful. Thank you to everyone who supported the EagleCam during its first 10 years and here's to many more!
- The EagleCam community
The EagleCam wouldn’t be possible without you! What started as a humble wildlife camera has turned into a vibrant community of supporters.
We are so grateful to everyone who cares about the EagleCam. From the teachers streaming the camera in their classrooms to the Friends of the Minnesota Nongame EagleCam to any and every viewer, you keep the camera going. We appreciate you SO much. Thank you!
- Learn more about the EagleCam
The nest was discovered in 2003. Over the last 10 years, we have replaced the camera twice and the microphone three times. The nest was about six feet in circumference, weighed about 2,000 pounds and was approximately 100 feet high and could only be reached by special equipment. Xcel Energy has given substantial assistance to the Program at this nest over the last decade, thank you Xcel!
Since camera installation, this nest has produced 25 eggs and 15 eaglets successfully fledged. There have been two females and four males in 10 years. The exact nest location is not divulged for the safety of the birds and equipment, but it is close to the Twin Cities metropolitan area.
Head over to the EagleCam webpage to watch the stream and stay up to date!
You can also sign up for updates to get the latest EagleCam news, right to your phone or email: