An Insider's Look at Young Bird Families

Xcel Energy has eight bird cams in three different states, allowing people to watch raptor eggs hatch and the young birds grow.

Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services

Ever wish you could see raptors lay their eggs and watch their young hatch and grow? Enter the Bird Cams, put in place by the electricity and natural gas energy company, Xcel—the same company leading the effort to put the city of Boulder, CO onto the smart grid.

The cameras, which monitor bald eagles, peregrine falcons, kestrels, osprey and great horned owls in three of the eight states Xcel serves, have been in place for more than a decade. But the program actually started with nest boxes 20 years ago.

As the story goes, an employee of Xcel’s King Plant in Minnesota noticed a peregrine falcon making itself at home in one of the plant’s stacks. So the company partnered with the Raptor Resource Project to get this bird a home. Up went the first of many nest boxes, in Minnesota to start, then in Colorado and Iowa.

The first of eight cameras was installed in 1997. The aim: “To increase awareness for conservation efforts and provide the public with opportunities to watch the birds and their growing families each spring,” according to Xcel’s site.

Each species gets its own Bird Cam page, with breaking news—“We have 10 baby falcons!” shouts the Falcon Cam page excitedly, on May 27—hour-by-hour daily pix and a live video feed of the boxes.

It’s a unique look at young bird families that feels not the least bit voyeuristic but natural. The more you watch, the more you care about what happens to these birds. And that’s the point. Now’s the busy season for most of the nests, so get watching!

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