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
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
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.
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.
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.