AVALON (CNS) – Tens of thousands of people around the world are forgoing reality TV this spring to instead watch Internet coverage of a pair of bald eagles as they raise two chicks — and incubate a third egg — in Santa Catalina Island.
“There’s a whole soap opera going on up there,” wildlife ecologist Peter Sharpe told the Daily Breeze newspaper.
The Institute for Wildlife Studies operates the cameras to keep an eye on the some of the 20 breeding pairs of eagles in the Channel Islands. An estimated 200 chicks have been hatched over the past two decades, when the Institute of Wildlife Studies began restoration efforts.
Bald eagles are native to the waters off California, but they were nearly wiped out from the hundreds of tons of DDT that were flushed into the ocean from a pesticide factory in Los Angeles County. The poison worked its way up the food chain and made the eagles’ eggs brittle, and break apart.
DDT was banned, the poison levels dropped, and the Arcata-based Institute for Wildlife Studies no longer needs to sneak into nests to remove the eggs for incubation in labs. But the cameras allow scientists — and the world — to see how the birds are doing on their own.
Wild eagles have spread to four of the eight Channel Islands, and are moving back into the mountains of Southern California — a dangerous place, the IWS scientist told the Daily Breeze.
“They go out on their own, they’re scavengers, so they get hit by cars, electrocuted on power lines,” Sharpe said. “The ones that stay on the islands have a pretty high survival rate once they’re past two or three months,” he was quoted as saying.
Classrooms around the country have adopted a nest on the west end of the island, where a couple for some reason known as Superman and Wray are raising their brood.
Thousands of entries are posted on blogs devoted to the eagles and eaglets’ every move, where a minute-by-minute shot sheet is posted. Those are available through the institute’s website.