A Pennsylvania bald eagle that drew attention for faithfully sitting on eggs while being buried in snow during a storm is officially a parent. Twice over.
Sharp-eyed viewers of the Pennsylvania Commission's online eagle camera, which is trained on a nest inhabited by eagles named Liberty and Freedom near Codorus State Park in Hanover, reported Tuesday morning that one of the pair's eggs hatched successfully.
"WE HAVE A CHICK!" was the effusive report on the eagle cam's Facebook page on Tuesday morning. On Wednesday morning, the eaglet's sibling arrived.
The eagle pair's first egg was laid on Feb. 14, and a second egg was laid on Feb. 17. Camera-watchers have been on the lookout in recent days for the eggs to hatch, as the incubation period for bald eagles is usually 35 days, according to the game commission.
Readers of LancasterOnline.com selected the names Honor and Justice for the pair's eaglets.
The eagle camera, which offers a sharp picture in full color, has captivated viewers from Hanover and beyond. Hundreds of thousands of viewers from more than 140 countries have checked out the eagle cam this season, according to the game commission.
The eagle cam can be viewed at http://www.pgc.state.pa.us at the "Bald Eagle Live Stream" icon.
"As people watch the eagle cam, they form a connection with the birds and feel like they know them," said Travis Lau, spokesman for the game commission.
If all the viewing time is added up, it would total 349 years' worth of video – and that was before the eaglet hatched, Lau said.
The eagle cam proved so popular Tuesday that the game commission and webcam company HDOnTap struggled to keep the feed online. The camera feed also was proving problematic with users who tried to access the feed with Samsun devices, Lau said.
"It's a matter of importance and we're looking to fix it as fast as possible," he said.
This is the first year for the live camera on the Hanover eagle nest, which has been an active nest for more than a decade, Lau said. Last year, the game commission piloted an eagle cam on a nest in Pittsburgh, which was viewed by users of more than 3.3 million unique devices.
The Hanover camera is operating more smoothly than the Pittsburgh camera, because it is close to a private home that provides a dedicated power supply, Lau said. The Pittsburgh camera was in a remote location and used solar power, which was less reliable.
The camera will likely stay online until after the young eagles fledge from the nest and officials are legally allowed to approach the nest again.
Though no longer considered an endangered species, bald eagles are protected from disturbance and hunting by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Maryland has more than 500 nesting pairs of bald eagles, according to the state Department of Natural Resources, while Pennsylvania has more than 270 nesting pairs.
Closer to home, raptor fans can get a fix by checking out cameras operated by the nonprofit Chesapeake Conservancy. The conservancy has a camera focused on a peregrine falcon nest on the 33rd floor of the TransAmerica Building in downtown Baltimore, as well as a camera mounted above an osprey nest on Kent Island.