Viewers of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources EagleCam were heartbroken over the weekend as they watched strong winds from a severe weather system whip a nest holding a newly hatched eaglet out of a tree.
The nature livestream captured the moment the nest fell Sunday morning. A mother eagle crouched in the snow-filled nest as it swayed precariously in the wind. A branch snapped, and the nest collapsed as the mother flew backward. The young eagle was later found dead on the ground, the department said in a statement.
"I was actually crying," said Denise Chung, who said she and her kids watched the nest fall in real time. She told The Associated Press it hit her particularly hard because she knew the eagle lost its baby. "I don’t know if it would have hit me so hard if I weren’t a mom."
The nest weighed over 2,000 pounds and was over 20 years old, the statement said. The department said heavy snow that fell over the weekend — coupled with the weight of the nest — likely just became too much for the branch to support.
Minnesota's EagleCam has mesmerized viewers around the globe for years. People from 180 countries and all 50 U.S. states tuned in three years ago to watch other eaglets hatch, said Department of Natural Resources information officer Lori Naumann.
"During the pandemic, a lot of people couldn’t get outside," Naumann said. "So, they tended to turn to nature cameras for mental health improvement."
Over 15,000 people are members of Facebook groups dedicated to Minnesota's EagleCam, including Chung, who told the AP that she has followed the EagleCam for about four years with her kids and husband.
Chung said she posted to Facebook after the nest fell because she couldn't get through to the Department of Natural Resources on the phone. She didn't know the department was already sending staff to help, so she wanted to alert others that the chick — which had just hatched days earlier — was in danger.
The adult eagles were seen flying around the area after the nest fell, the department's statement said. Though the nesting season is too short for the mother to lay another egg this year, the department said it is likely that the parents will rebuild in the same area because eagles are loyal to their territory.
"This is an emotional time for all of us, but please refrain from visiting the nest," the department said. "This was already a major disturbance for the eagles and many visitors will only cause more stress."
The department said the camera will stay on for now.