A high-definition camera aimed at an Arctic snowy owl nesting site in Alaska went live this week, providing researchers as well as the public with an unprecedented view into the den where six chicks are beginning to emerge.
Hundreds have their eyes trained on the burrow, located near Barrow, Alaska, on the coast of the Arctic Ocean, waiting for the chicks to peek their heads out - a rare sighting.
"You're not able to watch the birds 24/7, even with 24 hours of daylight," researcher Denver Holt of the Owl Research Institute told the Associated Press. "By having the camera, it just opens up another avenue and more periods of time we're able to look and record."
Holt has been part of what is currently a 23-year study of the owls and their main prey, brown lemmings, over a 260-square kilometer (100-square mile) area on the tundra of northern Alaska.
This particular camera is the latest addition in the Pearls of the Planet offerings of explore.org, the media outlet of the Annenberg Foundation, which provides live camera feeds of various wildlife species present across the globe. It follows another live camera that also went live this week, this one focused on brown bears at Katmai National Park and Preserve in southern Alaska.
"These live cams are about more than providing an incredible view of bears or owls during an amazing part of their season," said Charles Annenberg Weingarten, explore.org founder and Annenberg Foundation vice-president.
"What we are doing is building out the zoos of the future, where animals run wild and people from everywhere can feel connected to the experience," he said.
This glimpse into the lives of these snowy birds will allow researchers to observe normal, but rarely seen, goings on in their dens, such as how many times a male will bring food to the female, the eating habits of both parents and how often the mother owl sleeps.
According to the National Wildlife Refuge Association, snowy owls - which keep to the Arctic mostly but in recent years have been migrating to mid-western states in the winter due to climate change and habitat loss - are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
By Jenna Iacurci
With thanks to NWN
David Allen Sibley on Snowy Owls