published Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Millions watch nesting eagles on Berry College web cam in Rome, Ga.

Berry College in Rome, Ga., has Web cameras trained on a pair of nesting eagles. The female is larger than the male and has a shaggier head. The male has a sleek head.  Also, the female has a black spot on her tail feathers.
Berry College in Rome, Ga., has Web cameras trained on a pair of nesting eagles. The female is larger than the male and has a shaggier head. The male has a sleek head. Also, the female has a black spot on her tail feathers.

WATCH THE EAGLES

• See the Berry College eagle webcams at www.berry.edu/eaglecam and see the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/berrycollegeeagles.

• See the Harrison Bay State Park Eagle cam at www.harrisonbayeaglecam.org.

FIND OUT MORE

Berry College biology professor Renee Carleton will hold a live chat at 2 p.m. today at www.berry.edu/eaglecam/chat to discuss the college’s nesting eagles and take questions via email and Twitter.

  • photo
    Berry College in Rome, Ga., has web cameras trained on a pair of nesting eagles.

A bobble-headed little fluff ball in Rome, Ga., is capturing hearts around the world.

Thousands of people are getting online to watch live Web camera images of a baby eaglet that hatched Feb. 22 in an eagle's nest on Berry College's campus. A webcam counter showed more than 13,000 live viewers Tuesday and 4.2 million total viewers.

"I'm watching it now," Calhoun, Ga., retiree Gerald Brown said Thursday evening. "We have it on all day. Very interesting. Very interesting."

The eaglet's birth was the payoff for those who for weeks have had an intimate, live look at the pair of nesting eagles. The birds laid two eggs, fended off a night-time attack by a great horned owl and survived snow that piled up during the recent big storm on their nest that's 100 feet up a loblolly pine tree.

The eagles first appeared on the wooded, wildlife-filled 27,000-acre campus -- said to be the world's largest -- in the spring of 2012.

"It was really an unusual thing for them to be building a nest in the spring," college spokeswoman Jeanne Mathews said.

She speculates the pair settled at Berry after a spring storm blew down an earlier nest.

The eagles, which are thought to mate for life, didn't breed right away.

They returned in October of 2012 and laid two eggs that hatched the following January. The baby eagles fledged, or flew away, in late April 2013.

A webcam, called the "approach cam," that the college installed in September 2012 below the nest gave a glimpse into the eagles' lives.

View gets better

That view got a lot better after September 2013, when a Georgia Power crew helped install a "nest cam" that looks directly into the eagles' lair.

Both cameras, which were donated by Sony, are high definition and have infrared night vision that's invisible to the eagles, but shows the birds at night.

Often, eagles nest in remote locations. But the Berry College pair live next to a parking lot for "the cage," which is the students' nickname for the Steven J. Cage Athletic and Recreation Center.

The eagles feed their eaglet coots, a duck-like bird that's plentiful on campus, along with duck, fish, squirrels and rabbits, the college's Director of Sustainability Eddie Elsberry said.

The squirrel and rabbits are likely roadkill, he said. But the eagles catch the fish, ducks and coots that live in a reservoir and quarry on campus as well as nearby ponds.

Elsberry has watched the male eagle kill the waterfowl.

"He'll swoop down and catch and submerge the coot or the duck," Elsberry said. The coots and ducks cluster together on the water as the giant raptor circles overhead.

Closer to Chattanooga, an eagle cam has been set up at Harrison Bay State Park, where a pair of eagles have laid two eggs in a nest on the park's Bear Trace golf course between its 10th and 11th holes. The USGA provided a grant for the webcam to show that golf courses can serve as wildlife habitat.

Those eggs are expected to hatch around March 17. The Harrison Bay Eagle Cam had about 50 live viewers Tuesday afternoon and more than 635,000 total views.

"It's a pretty good attraction," said Matt Dillard, a clerk at the golf course's pro shop. "You'd be surprised how many phone calls we receive."

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township¹s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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