A nest cam has captured rare and incredible footage of one of the world's most powerful birds of prey.

Every year, Explore.org streams live video from this nest on Maine's Hog Island. The nest belongs to a pair of ospreys named Rachel and Steve, whose three newest chicks – Spirit, Eric and Little B – hatched this spring. The nest cam has been watching the birds grow for months, but Monday morning brought misfortune: the nest was attacked – and Spirit taken – by a bald eagle. 

The video is testament to the predatory power of these raptors. Though bald eagles eat mainly fish, they aren't picky when seafood is in short supply. They'll eat small mammals, birds, turtles, carrion ... and even vulnerable chicks from an unguarded nest. 

"[It's] one of the best videos I’ve ever seen of eagle predation," says Steve Kress, vice president for bird conservation at the National Audobon Society. The daring nest raid also came as a bit of a surprise. “I didn’t realise they’d take chicks that big, but now we know they do.” 

The young birds are almost fully grown and just about ready to start flying on their own. As you watch the video, you can see the tense moment when Little B – in the centre – spots the incoming attack and escapes by taking his first leap from the nest. (Happily, he landed safely and has since reunited with his parents. Eric, who remained in the nest, is also safe and sound.)

This is actually the second year in a row that Rachel and Steve's nest has been raided by bald eagles. During last year's attack, also caught on camera, the birds lost all of their chicks.

Eagle attacks on other birds have been on the rise lately, according to Kress. For a long time, bald eagles were severely impacted by hunting and pesticide use, but populations have been doing much better in recent years, and the raptors were officially removed from the Endangered Species List in 2007. The spike in attacks on other birds might be a side-effect of the eagles' continued resurgence. 

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Top header image: Mark Roche/Flickr