10 Animal Webcams You Can Watch Right Now

Thanks to webcams, you can keep a close eye on animals like Mei Xiang.
Thanks to webcams, you can keep a close eye on animals like Mei Xiang.
Ron Cogswell, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

You don’t have to trek deep into nature or take a trip to a zoo to witness the wonders of nature. Sites like explore.org maintain a collection of animal livestreams, and many individual institutions keep their critter cams up and running throughout the day. Here are a few of our favorite animal webcams, which you might want to bookmark.

1. Bella the Hummingbird

An Allen’s hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin) has been returning to the same ficus tree in Southern California to build nests and raise her chicks since 2005. The anonymous homeowner named her Bella and installed a camera to share the nesting activity with everyone in 2012. You can watch Bella live as she tends to her nest, keeping the tiny eggs warm until they hatch.

2. Farm Animals at Flying Skunk Farm

If you’ve ever craved the experienced of a working farm without having to do the chores, you can load the live barnyard webcam at Flying Skunk farm in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. The farm raises chickens, ducks, geese, and goats. This webcam has a microphone to capture the honks, clucks, crows, and general poultry cacophony, which can be a nice background for your web surfing.

3. Rescue Kittens

Life isn't great for feral cats. Kittens born in the wild have abysmal survival rates, and those that survive to adulthood aren’t used to humans, making them difficult to find homes for. To bring down the numbers of feral cats, some rescue groups run TNR (trap, neuter, return) programs—and in British Columbia, TinyKittens teamed up with Langely Animal Protection Society to do just that. The goal is to prevent cats from getting pregnant, but when TinyKittens finds a pregnant feral cat, the facility takes her in, caring for her and her kittens so they're acclimated to humans. When the kittens are ready, they go to loving homes, and mom is spayed and released. You can watch the kittens acclimate to indoor life here.

4. Future Service Dogs

This very good dog will one day help army veterans.Jim Greenhill, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Take a peek inside the Warrior Canine Connection's Puppy Enrichment Center with this live cam, which features future service dogs who will one day help wounded veterans reconnect with their lives and loved ones.

5. Marine Life at Folger Pinnacle Reef

An underwater live webcam can show us many surprises. Ocean Networks Canada has a webcam 75 feet under the sea, keeping an eye on the Folger Pinnacle Reef off Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The only light available most of the time is what filters down from the surface, but at night, the researchers controlling the reef cam turn on underwater lights for five minutes out of every hour for your viewing pleasure. Divers periodically clean and service the camera. It sits on a platform with a number of scientific instruments that allow the researchers to monitor the area, which is a rockfish conservation zone.

6. Bald Eagles

A pair of bald eagles selected a tulip poplar tree at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., to build their nest in 2014 and have been using it ever since. The eagles are named Mr. President and The First Lady. The American Eagle Foundation has cameras trained on the nest.

7. Giant Pandas

Thanks to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park’s panda cam, you can watch Tian Tian and Mei Xiang spend their days lazing about, noshing on bamboo and playing in the grass. The cameras stream 24/7, so you can watch the two pandas at any time.

8. African Penguins

Waddle on over to your computer to watch African penguins.WallyPhotography/iStock via Getty Images

The San Diego Zoo has a healthy flock of African penguins—one of the most endangered types of penguins. You can watch the dapper birds flap around here. Keep a close eye on the water, too, and you may spot a leopard shark swimming around.

9. Jellyfish

Need a moment or two of zen? Check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s jelly cam. The sea nettles glide through the water, creating what almost looks like a choreographed routine of pulses and swirls. Be thankful you’re just viewing these jellyfish from the comfort of your own couch—they use their flowy tentacles to sting and paralyze prey.

10. Giraffes

Thanks to the Houston Zoo, you can spend hours watching giraffes mill about in the company of zebras and ostrich. Viewers can even take turns controlling the camera’s angle, so you may have to be patient if someone gets a little unwieldy.

Celebrate the Holidays With the 2020 Harry Potter Funko Pop Advent Calendar

Funko
Funko

Though the main book series and movie franchise are long over, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter remains in the spotlight as one of the most popular properties in pop-culture. The folks at Funko definitely know this, and every year the company releases a new Advent calendar based on the popular series so fans can count down to the holidays with their favorite characters.

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Right now, you can pre-order the 2020 edition of Funko's popular Harry Potter Advent calendar, and if you do it through Amazon, you'll even get it on sale for 33 percent off, bringing the price down from $60 to just $40.

Funko Pop!/Amazon

Over the course of the holiday season, the Advent calendar allows you to count down the days until Christmas, starting on December 1, by opening one of the tiny, numbered doors on the appropriate day. Each door is filled with a surprise Pocket Pop! figurine—but outside of the trio of Harry, Hermione, and Ron, the company isn't revealing who you'll be getting just yet.

Calendars will start shipping on October 15, but if you want a head start, go to Amazon to pre-order yours at a discount.

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12 Fascinating Facts About Elephants

Photo by David Heiling on Unsplash

Known for their strong family bonds and intelligence, elephants have fascinated humans across time and cultures. As the largest living land mammal, a male African bush elephant typically stands more than 10 feet tall and weighs an incredible 6.6 tons. Although poachers still kill approximately 100 African elephants every day, conservation groups are working to save elephant populations from extinction. Read on for a dozen things you might not know about elephants, from their long history as a political symbol to their legit firefighting skills.

1. Contrary to popular belief, elephants are not exactly scared of mice.

Baby elephant looks startled.
iStock.com/szaphotography

Cartoonists have long depicted the funny juxtaposition of a giant elephant terrified of a tiny mouse. Zoologists and elephant trainers have conducted experiments to test whether elephants are truly afraid of rodents, and it seems to be a myth. Mice themselves don't frighten elephants, but the pachyderms have poor vision and can get extremely startled when anything suddenly scurries by. Elephants are probably more afraid of a mouse's sudden movement than the mouse itself.

2. Wild elephants could have populated the U.S., but abraham Lincoln nixed the idea.

A mother and baby elephant taking a walk.
iStock.com/saha_avijan

In 1861, President Lincoln received gifts, including elephant tusks and a handmade sword, from Siam's King Somdetch Phra Paramendr Maha Mongkut. The king of present-day Thailand also made an interesting offer: Mongkut proposed that Siam would send pairs of male and female elephants to the U.S. to breed in the forests. Americans could then tame the wild elephants and put them to work for the economic benefit of the country. William Seward, Lincoln's secretary of state, replied to Mongkut in 1862, graciously declining his offer. He told the king that since the U.S. already used steam power to efficiently transport goods within the country, elephants simply wouldn't be practical.

3. Trunk-sucking is the elephant equivalent of thumb-sucking.

Baby elephant sucking its trunk.
iStock.com/bucky_za

When baby elephants want to comfort themselves, they instinctively start sucking their trunks. Trunk-sucking is also a way that a baby elephant can learn how to use her trunk (which contains between 40,000 and 50,000 muscles). Although most elephants, like human babies, grow out of sucking behavior, some adult elephants also suck their trunks when they feel anxious.

4. Elephants have been the symbol of the Republican Party since 1874.

Elephant symbol for the Republican party.
iStock.com/Niyazz

Although elephants had been occasionally used as a symbol for Republicans during the Civil War, cartoonist Thomas Nast, who drew an elephant in an 1874 issue of Harper's Weekly, gets the credit for linking the animal with the political party. In later cartoons, Nast continued to draw an elephant to portray the Republican Party, and other cartoonists adopted it, establishing the animal as the GOP symbol.

5. Barnum & Bailey once trained elephants to play baseball.

U.S. stamp with a circus elephant on it.
iStock.com/Valerie Loiseleux

Baseball is America's pastime, so why not teach elephants how to play the game? In 1912, thanks to the work of Barnum & Bailey's elephant trainer, Harry L. Mooney, the intelligent animals played their first ballgame. Although playing baseball was just one of many tricks that circus elephants learned, Barnum & Bailey capitalized on the concept of elephant baseball by using the image on posters to sell tickets for shows.

6. Some elephants have been convicted of murder.

Elephant foot in chains.
iStock.com/Pentium2

Although elephants are typically viewed as gentle giants, they are capable of attacking and killing humans. Male elephants undergo musth, a hormonal change that makes them temporarily produce tons of testosterone, resulting in aggression. But even female elephants can kill. In 1916, a town in Tennessee charged an elephant named Big Mary with first-degree murder for killing her handler. Big Mary, who worked for the Sparks Circus, attacked her handler, possibly after he struck her with a bullhook as she was trying to eat a watermelon rind. Big Mary was convicted and sentenced to execution. Some 2500 residents of the town gathered to watch Big Mary's dramatic hanging, which featured a 100-ton crane and a chain that broke under her weight.

7. Elephants grieve death.

Elephants mourning the death of a baby elephant.
iStock.com/brittak

Although we can't know exactly what elephants feel and how they process death, they seem to show signs that they experience grief when a member of their family (or another elephant) dies. When they see a dead elephant, they may vocalize, use their trunks to "hug" the dead animal, or stay with the carcass for hours. Some elephants have also tried to bury the dead body by covering it in leaves and soil.

8. Trained elephants fight fires in Indonesia.

Elephant with water spewing out of its trunk.
Ishara S.KODIKARA, AFP/GettyImages

You probably won't see an elephant riding on a fire truck anytime soon, but elephants in Indonesia are a vital part of fighting fires. In 2015, East Sumatra was plagued with multiple fires over a period of several months, so 23 trained elephants from a conservation center went to work. Carrying water pumps and hoses, the elephants helped patrol the land and made sure that new fires weren't ignited.

9. If you're in Zambia, you might see some elephants strolling through your hotel lobby.

An elephant walks into the lobby of the Mfuwe Lodge in Zambia.
An elephant walks into the lobby of the Mfuwe Lodge in Zambia.
Lars Plougmann, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Some guests at Mfuwe Lodge in the African country of Zambia get an unusual animal sighting before they even leave the lobby. Each year between October and December, families of elephants walk through the lodge's reception area to eat wild mango from a tree in the courtyard. The elephants' giant size and seeming indifference to their hotel lobby surroundings make for quite a striking sight.

10. In 2015, scientists recorded elephants yawning for the first time.

An elephant's open mouth.
iStock.com/filrom

Although scientists speculated that elephants probably yawn, scientists from the University of California, Davis captured the first video of an elephant yawning. If you enjoy watching sleepy animals stretching and yawning, this is for you. Warning: extreme cuteness ahead.

11. Elephants starred in YouTube's first-ever video.

Man taking a photo of an elephant on his phone.
iStock.com/iudmylaSupynska

On April 23, 2005, Jawed Karim made internet history when he uploaded the first video to a certain nascent video-sharing website. Karim, one of YouTube's founders, posted an 18-second scene of himself standing in front of elephants at a zoo. In the video, he speaks about how cool the elephants' long trunks are. As of August 2019, the video has more than 74 million views.

12. Elephants love to snack on old Christmas trees.

Two elephants snacking on pine trees.
VADIM KRAMER, AFP/Getty Images

Zookeepers at Tierpark Berlin, a zoo in Germany, feed unsold Christmas trees to their elephants in early January. The trees are certified pesticide-free, and the elephants seem to enjoy their special snack. Berlin isn't the only place where elephants eat Christmas trees, though. Zoos in Prague also treat their elephants to the tasty conifers.