EagleCam fans really hoping these birds won't break their hearts again

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' EagleCam is like reality TV, except nothing is scripted and all the stars are literally eagles.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' EagleCam is like reality TV, except nothing is scripted and all the stars are literally eagles. Minnesota Nongame Wildlife Program Facebook

Two bald eagles are tending to a nest in an undisclosed location in Ramsey County.

We know that because the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has a camera trained on them at all times, and thousands of people across the United States (and beyond) are watching them.

Welcome to the strange and intimate world of the DNR EagleCam, where humans come to ship the hell out of some wild birds. It’s February, so while everyone gears up for Valentine’s Day, EagleCam fans are hoping to see their favorite feathered couple bring some chicks into the world.

They couldn’t have picked a more appealing pair to root for. This year’s eagles are new to the nest, and probably, the DNR surmises, new to parenting. They display a lot of behaviors common in young eagles, and young couples: spending almost all their time together, rearranging sticks, sharing food, bumping uglies.

Fans on the Friends of the Eagle Cam Facebook page are absolutely in love. They’ve taken to calling the birds “Sid” and “Nancy.” (Let's hope it turns out better for these birds than the original Sid and Nancy.)

Their first egg arrived in the nest on Thursday afternoon, and another turned up on Monday. The eagle forums exploded.

“TWO,” one commenter shouted on the DNR’s Facebook page.

“Such proud parents!” another said. Hard to say if the eagles are actually proud, but in photos, they certainly seem interested in a “hey, look what came out of my butt this afternoon” kind of way.

We can’t blame the fans for being excited. Everyone loves rooting for a hip young couple, even if they eat gross dead squirrels on the regular. But veteran viewers expressed some anxiety about opening their hearts to another brood. That’s because they remember what happened the last time there were eggs in the nest, in 2018.

Before Sid and Nancy, EagleCam viewers were rooting for “Mom” and “Dad,” a veteran power couple who have been raising eaglets on camera since the DNR launched the project in 2012. 

Then Dad disappeared. We don’t know how or why, but he never came back.

Mom went and found herself a new mate—a strapping, younger male. The two produced three eggs in February 2018. But that winter was sloppy, wet, and cold. Mom had to leave the nest every now and again to avoid freezing to death, exposing the eggs to the elements. Normally, this isn’t a problem with two working eagle parents. But Mom’s new mate was immature and clueless, and didn’t know how to pick up the slack.

The nest went exposed for longer and longer stretches of time. Eggs started disappearing—first one, then another—until only one remained. Then, when both parents were gone, a juvenile male eagle found the nest and started snooping around. EagleCam viewers watched him toy with an egg, rolling it around, until he crushed it into yolky soup.

There hadn’t even been a chick inside. It was never going to hatch. Eventually, both eagles flew the coop altogether.

“I grieved so hard for our original Mom and Dad,” a commenter on the Facebook fanpage said on Monday. “That was a lot of years of loving them and then it was over. Broke my heart. And, I told myself I wouldn’t get so involved again.”

Even many heartbroken viewers are tuning in again, hopeful their experience with Sid and Nancy will be better than the last. About 26,000 people subscribe to the cam's updates, an increase from 2018's 24,000. 

The problem with bearing witness to nature is that there are no screenwriters, no clever editing, no audience vote. Whatever happens… happens—despite the occasional overzealous viewer campaign to “rescue” the birds or change the outcome. Although Nancy and Sid appear to be promising parents, there is no guarantee the future has good fortune in store.

But we’re watching, hopeful, and ready to get hurt again.