It's been a good two weeks for Washington's bald eagles – and an exciting time for the thousands of animal-cam fans who were hoping for a glimpse of a live hatching.

The cams did not disappoint. Two fluffy eaglets stole headlines and hearts when they hatched at the National Arboretum earlier this month, and more recently, a nesting pair of "baldies" at the Metropolitan Police Academy became parents when their two eggs hatched over the Easter weekend.

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Freedom and Justice, the patriotically named avian couple who calls this nest home, have been raising chicks at the same location for eleven years. And that's all thanks to a team of ambitious young volunteers from the Earth Conservation Corps who launched a bold experiment in 1994 to bring bald eagles back to the US capital city after a decades-long absence.

The budding conservationists translocated 16 bald eagle chicks from their nests in Wisconsin to an artificial nest site at the US National Arboretum. Just six short weeks later, the juvenile eagles were released into Washington skies in the hope that they would eventually find a spot to settle in their new urban environment.

The volunteer team kept at it, releasing four eaglets every spring between 1994 and 1998. Five years after the initial release, an avian couple called Monique and Tink built the first bald eagle nest in Washington in over half a century. They were followed by Liberty and Justice, and a third pair that settled in at the National Arboretum.

As for the "eagle cams", they were installed at the nest sites in 2013 – and they're not just there so we can waste away office hours. The cams help the team at Earth Conservation Corps keep track of these important birds as part of its citizen science programme. 

Since these efforts began 22 years ago, the city has backed the project and the entire Anacostia River habitat where the eagles live is undergoing a massive restoration. And that makes these adorably fluffy internet stars a truly remarkable urban-wildlife success story.


Top header image: George Pankewytch, Flickr