Why do we install eagle cams at night?

The bald eagle has certainly made a spectacular comeback from the endangered species list with their population in the lower 48 states reaching over 316,000 in 2019. This number is 4.4 times the magnitude compared to 2009. We can chart a similar increase in eagle cams parallel to the increase in the bald eagle population. In the mid-2010s, bald eagle cameras started to gain popularity. Videos of adorable day-old chicks started to circulate on social media, local, and national news. This led to a substantial boost in demand for live-streamed eagle cams and content. Lucky enough, the bald eagle’s population was booming and with camera technology becoming better and cheaper, it was the perfect time to add more eagle cams to the internet! 

To have so many live cameras in wild bald eagle nests is incredible! Honestly, we need even more. It offers us an amazing opportunity to get an unfiltered look into the daily lives of bald eagles. This content also provides data to monitor eagle populations and their ecosystems. With all this data, we are starting to see an interesting shift in some eagle’s behavior. Growing up we were taught that eagles migrate north for the summer and come back to their nest in fall or winter. With the information provided by these cameras, we have sometimes observed the contrary, some eagles aren’t migrating at all. They hang around their general nest area all year round. With more and more eagle cams going live on the internet, we can see and track this pattern. 
This is why the concept of the night install was developed! The usual way eagle cameras are installed is during the off-season, when the eagles usually migrate. This can be done in the daytime, which is much easier and the preferred method. Now that some eagles are not migrating and instead, remaining in the general area, we have to consider changing our methods…

Why at night?

Our biologist, Connor, thought of a night install as similar to the hoods he used in training bald eagles and other birds of prey. When a bird of prey has a hood placed over its head covering its eyes the hood reduces stress by removing a visual stimulus.  This enables the bird to sit calmly on the glove or in a travel carrier. Similarly, once the sun sets, wild birds seem more content to stay in one location. When we install a camera with an eagle in the area, we don’t want them to come anywhere near the nest. The darkness acts like a giant hood and the eagles stay on their perches all night (Note, it is rare, but if the moon is bright enough or there is enough ambient lighting, eagles will fly short distances at night). When the eagles return to their nest in the morning there are no people and things look mostly normal, minus a few weird looking branches (aka our camouflage cameras). 

Night or Day Install? Which one is best?

Every nest and eagle pair is different and requires a specially tailored plan built by experts. The survey is the most important part of an install. Besides the important logistics, tree and nest health assessment, and camera install plan, we are also able to gather data about the eagle pair and behaviors and patterns unique to them. If the eagles migrate and can’t be found in the offseason, then a normal daytime install is the way to go. If the eagles are consistently seen in the area year-round, then a night install is the way to go. (Note, installs are still conducted in the offseason. The eagles may be in the area, but not currently using or staying at the nest)

Our goal is to provide an unfiltered window into the eagle’s lives, and we want to limit any human interference when installing cameras. If the eagles don’t see us in their nest, then we don’t run the risk of influencing nest abandonment, stress, or anything else that could negatively affect the eagles. We always put the health and wellness of the eagles first when installing cameras. 

We are very excited to be able to bring this technique to the eagle cam world. We could keep talking to you about it for hours, but instead, we will continue to show you more in our future videos, blogs, and social media posts. Be sure to follow us! 

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Disclaimer: We are professionals and take every safety precaution possible. Night installs add significant complexity and safety risks. Day installs are always the preferred method.