Birds cheep and squawk, peck and soar. They cluster on bird feeders and rooftops and swoop across our skies. But how well do you know them?
In many cases, it’s hard to get up close to them. Take, for example, the California condor, a vulture that once used to crowd Western skies but now is one of the world’s rarest birds because of habitat destruction, poaching and other factors.
But you can watch condors — and lots of other birds — up close thanks to All About Birds. Created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the website allows you to click on live bird cams from all over the world, including one trained on a California condor chick watched over by biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The chick, which hatched in April, lives in the wild in a cave near the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in Southern California.
In addition to its live coverage, the condor page offers updates on moments you may have missed, such as the chick’s recent play date with some loose feathers inside its cave and occasional visits from its parents, which were raised at the Los Angeles Zoo and then released into the wild.
Not into condors? There are other birds to watch, including hummingbirds in Texas and the wild birds that gather around Cornell University’s bird feeders in Ithaca, N.Y. The cams have their own Twitter feeds to keep the world updated on every milestone and memorable moment.
Other cams include one trained on a nest of Hellgate ospreys in Missoula, Mont., and a fruit-covered platform in Panama that attracts a variety of colorful birds. Cams go online and offline according to season; for example, a camera that documented the lives of Laysan albatrosses in Hawaii shut down for the year when both birds fledged and flew away. However, you can watch its more momentous moments in the bird-cam equivalent of reruns.
Beyond live feeds, the site includes information on how to identify and watch birds away from your computer, and it offers a “bird academy” of free lessons in bird behavior, ID, songs and calls, evolution and more. Anyone can browse its videos and articles; some courses cost money and are offered through Cornell’s continuing education program.
Click on the website for a momentary bird break, but you may leave with a serious case of bird fever — and a new favorite place to soak in more information about creatures that twitter and flap.