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

A woman in an army uniform holds a black puppy
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

Two 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.

The Tiger Who Came to Tea … In the Middle of Rural Yorkshire

If you lived in Holmfirth, England, in the 1940s, there's a good chance you would've found a tiger like this one wandering around town.
If you lived in Holmfirth, England, in the 1940s, there's a good chance you would've found a tiger like this one wandering around town.
photoguru81/iStock via Getty Images

According to the World Wildlife Fund, there are more tigers in captivity than there are in the wild. This is especially true in the United States, where backyard zoos and cub petting operations are successful—if controversial—businesses. Big cat ownership is more heavily regulated in the UK than it is in the U.S., but that wasn’t always the case. More than 70 years ago, there was at least one pet tiger living in England.

To the people of Britain, Holmfirth, 20 miles outside of Manchester, is probably best known as the picturesque setting of Last of the Summer Wine, the BBC show that ran for a staggering 37 years from 1973 to 2010 and is now appropriately credited as being the world’s longest running sitcom. But back in the early 1940s, the village was known locally as the home of Fenella the Holmfirth Tiger.

Fenella’s story actually begins more than 8000 miles away in South Africa, where she was adopted by a family of circus performers and acrobats from Yorkshire, the Overends, in the late 1930s. While touring South Africa with a traveling circus in 1939, the Overend family was offered two newborn circus tiger cubs to rear and eventually incorporate into their act. One of the cubs died barely a week later, but the other—given the name Fenella, or “Feney” for short—survived.

The Overends were forced to return to England after the outbreak of the Second World War. They took Fenella home with them to live (albeit after a brief stay in quarantine) in the back garden of their house in Holmfirth. Although she had a specially built hut and enclosure, the tiger eventually began spending just as much time in the family house as she did in the garden, and according to her owners, soon became extraordinarily tame.

The family would take her for walks through the village, including past the local primary school, where she became a firm favorite among the pupils. When the local council began to raise questions over just how tame Fenella really was, the sight of her walking calmly while being petted by all the schoolchildren as they returned from their lunch break was all it took to quash their worries.

Holmfirth viewed from the cemetery
Holmfirth in the 21st century, with nary a tiger in sight.

Tim Green, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Fenella was sometimes permitted to run in the fields around the village, where she reportedly made friends with a local cart horse—which is surprising, given she was raised on a diet of horse meat and fish (fish and chips were one of her favorite treats). She apparently also had a fondness for climbing trees to take a nap, and supposedly had a habit of dropping down from the branches and, fairly understandably, surprising passersby. But soon the sight of a fully grown 9-foot Sumatran tigress casually idling her way through the village’s cobbled streets became the norm for the people of Holmfirth.

Fenella was intended to be a performing tiger. Similar to the cub petting operations that still exist in the U.S., visitors could pay sixpence to sit and pet her while the family was on tour. She was also worked into the family’s circus performances by staging a mock wrestling match with her owner. But though the Overends put the big cat to work, they considered her a beloved family pet rather than just another part of their act.

Sadly, Fenella died of a kidney infection during one of the family’s tours in 1950 when she was just over 10 years old. She was buried in the neighbor’s garden, which was said to be one of her favorite hunting grounds. Fenella is still remembered fondly in and around Holmfirth. In 2016, she was a highlight of the Holmfirth Arts Festival, which celebrated the cat’s life with an exhibition of photographs and archival footage of her and the Overend family. Exotic pets might not have remained as popular in the UK as they once were, but Fenella’s popularity at least remains intact.

Why Are Sloths So Slow?

Sloths have little problem holding still for nature photographers.
Sloths have little problem holding still for nature photographers.
Geoview/iStock via Getty Images

When it comes to physical activity, few animals have as maligned a reputation as the sloth. The six sloth species, which call Brazil and Panama home, move with no urgency, having seemingly adapted to an existence that allows for a life lived in slow motion. But what makes sloths so sedate? And what horrible, poop-related price must they pay in order to maintain life in the slow lane?

According to HowStuffWorks, the sloth’s limited movements are primarily the result of their diet. Residing mainly in the canopy vines of Central and South American forests, sloths dine out on leaves, fruits, and buds. With virtually no fat or protein, sloths conserve energy by taking a leisurely approach to life. On average, a sloth will climb or travel roughly 125 feet per day. On land, it takes them roughly one minute to move just one foot.

A sloth’s digestive system matches their locomotion. After munching leaves using their lips—they have no incisors—it can take up to a month for their meals to be fully digested. And a sloth's metabolic rate is 40 to 45 percent slower than most mammals' to help compensate for their low caloric intake. With so little fuel to burn, a sloth makes the most of it.

Deliberate movement shouldn’t be confused for weakness, however. Sloths can hang from branches for hours, showing off some impressive stamina. And because they spend most of their time high up in trees, they have no need for rapid movement to evade predators.

There is, however, one major downside to the sloth's leisurely lifestyle. Owing to their meager diet, they typically only have to poop once per week. Like going in a public bathroom, this can be a stressful event, as it means going to the ground and risking detection by predators—which puts their lives on the line. Worse, that slow bowel motility means they’re trying to push out nearly one-third of their body weight in feces at a time. It's something to consider the next time you feel envious of their chill lifestyle.

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