How to Watch Big Bear Bald Eagle Nest After Winter Storm Mega Snow Dump

A live stream is providing a fascinating window into the lives of a pair of bald eagles struggling to take care of their eggs amid severe winter weather in California.

The live stream, which is available to watch 24/7 on YouTube, shows a bald eagle nest in Big Bear Valley, located in Southern California's San Bernardino National Forest.

The nest, which is positioned 120 feet up a pine tree, has been in active use since the fall of 2013, according to Friends of Big Bear Valley (FOBBV), the group that set up the camera. They say this is the first-ever active recorded bald eagle nest in the Valley

Currently, the nest is home to a bald-eagle couple—a male named Shadow and a female called Jackie—who have been looking after two eggs.

Jackie has been using this particular nest since 2017—it had previously been abandoned by another pair of bald eagles—a FOBBV spokesperson told Newsweek.

A pair of bald eagles
This stock image shows a mating pair of Bald eagles in their nest amid snowy conditions. A live stream is providing a fascinating window into the lives of two eagles who are struggling to keep their eggs safe amid a major Southern California snowstorm. iStock

Bald eagles are the national bird of the United States and can be found across vast swathes of North America, from Alaska and Canada down to Florida and northern Mexico. Known scientifically as Haliaeetus leucocephalus, the bald eagle measures around 3 feet in length with a 7-foot wingspan, and weighs between 8 and 15 pounds.

Bald eagles build the largest nests of any bird in North America. The species even holds the Guinness World Record for the largest bird's nest ever recorded. The nest spotted near St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1963 measured 9 feet, 6 inches wide and 20 feet deep, and was estimated to weigh more than 4,400 pounds.

In much of California, bald eagles lay their eggs in winter or early spring, with the incubation period lasting around 35 days.

Adults build large nests out of sticks and other materials. The same pair may return every year, adding to the existing structure. Bald eagle pairs tend to mate for life but, in the event that one member dies or disappears, the other bird will attempt to find a new partner.

Last week, a major winter storm system moved over California, dumping huge amounts of rain and snow on parts of the state, including areas that rarely see the white stuff.

In Big Bear Valley, at least 45 inches of snow fell in the space of 72 hours toward the end of last week, Los Angeles news station ABC 7 reported. The FOBBV live cam shows a large amount of snow in Jackie and Shadow's nest.

The pair have been taking turns incubating their eggs to keep them as warm as possible in freezing temperatures.

"On Saturday, Jackie sat on the nest for long hours, apparently napping, until the falling snow covered everything but the outline of her tail and beak. Jackie's method for handling bad weather is to sleep through as much as possible," FOBBV said in a Facebook post on Monday. "By the time Shadow flew in the back door a short time later, Jackie was almost completely covered again."

In another post published on Thursday, the group said: "As always, Jackie trusts herself the most to have egg-duty whenever there is bad weather. Throughout most of the day and all night, she stayed on the eggs as the snow came down. She often laid completely still for long periods, sleeping until she was covered in snow. Then she stood up and shook it all off, checked and turned the eggs and hunkered down on top of them to start the process again."

While conditions for these two bald eagles may seem harsh, the birds are built to handle this kind of weather.

"Even when Jackie is lying still and unmoving for a long period and getting covered in snow, she is fine," Thursday's post said. "They each have over 7,000 water-proof feathers covering their body, so the snow they shake off does not even make them wet. And under those feathers is a thick layer of down feathers that keep their body warm.

"It is like they are wearing a thick down jacket or wrapped in a waterproof comforter all the time. And those down feathers are what they tuck the eggs into."

Despite these adaptations, FOBBV said on Monday it appears now that the eggs are likely not going to hatch this time around, although this is not known for certain:

"We cannot know exactly why—they could have not been fertilized, or could have stopped developing somewhere along the process for any of a variety of conditions and reasons."

In the past, Jackie's eggs hatched around 38 to 39 days after being laid, but her current batch is already older than this. Bald eagle eggs have been recorded hatching as much as 44 days after being laid. However, the first of the pair's eggs has passed this point already, and the second is right on the threshold.

The group noted though that the bald eagle pair left the nest at some points over the past two weeks for unknown reasons, leaving the eggs uncovered for an hour or two at a time. It is not clear what impact, if any, this had on the eggs.

Thousands of people have been tuning into the live stream in recent days, with many hoping they will catch a glimpse of the eggs hatching. Whatever the current state of the eggs, Jackie and Shadow are still taking good care of them, according to FOBBV.

"They may continue to do that for up to a few weeks before they decide to give up on the eggs hatching," the group said on Monday. "In the past, they have started taking longer and longer breaks without incubating the eggs. Shadow has historically taken longer than Jackie to give up and has shown more obvious concern about it. The eggs may be preyed upon by other birds, or be left to be buried into the nest."

"As always, we will patiently watch to see what happens from here. We will allow ourselves to be open, curious and learning from nature, even through the sadness in our hearts."

After several days of extreme winter weather, forecasts indicate that a new series of storms are set to hit the Big Bear Valley region early this week, bringing more wind, cold and snow that the eagles will have to endure.

Update: 03/01/23, 08:50 a.m. ET: This article was updated to include additional information from an FOBBV spokesperson.