6 Animal Webcams to Watch During Quarantine

Bears and puffins and jellyfish, oh my!

By Krista Karlson

April 7, 2020


Photo by Rumin Gong/iStock

My seventh-grade English teacher was a wise old woman who loved Edgar Allan Poe. She walked with a slight hunch. Like the teenagers we were, we whispered in the hallways about how she probably lived in a haunted house. 

On the days that we weren’t reading Poe or being forced to memorize Shakespeare, we had a peculiar task: watching an eagle family via webcam. Over the course of the semester, we witnessed the mother sitting on her precious eggs, the scruffy babies emerging, and then absorbed all the life lessons a mother eagle imparts to her young before they leave the nest.

To this day, I cannot think of a single reason why this eagle family was relevant to my English class. Maybe it was slightly more educational than showing a movie, which is what all the substitute teachers did. But I suspect Mrs. Jones just really liked eagles. 

Whether or not you have a soft spot for eagles, I’ll bet you feel affection for some sort of nonhuman creatures. Self-quarantine has taught me that I, for one, am a sucker for baby bears and for penguins let loose at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium

As we face the prospect of being cooped up indefinitely with testy roommates, antsy kids, and way too much toilet paper, here are five webcams that might help you revel in nature virtually. They will certainly make your quarantine a little brighter.

The jellyfish cam at the Monterey Bay Aquarium is truly mesmerizing. The resident jellyfish float across the screen, propelling themselves with an easy grace. My favorite part is the close-up view of their tentacles, which appear at once chaotic and perfectly choreographed. Bonus: This cam’s relaxing background music.

The Atlantic puffin burrow on Seal Island, Maine. This cam offers an intimate glimpse into puffin family life. Since the 1970s, Audubon has been reintroducing the iconic, overharvested birds to islands off the coast of Maine. They don’t do a whole lot on the webcam, but they’re beautiful creatures, and they make funny sounds. 

The open sea cam at the Monterey Bay Aquarium is chock-full of sharks, rays, and tuna. The bubbles alone, which stream upward hypnotically in the million-gallon exhibit, are enough to instantly reduce my blood pressure. Bonus: The aquarium’s soothing background tunes.

The brown bears at Brook Falls in Katmai National Park, Alaska. I spent longer than I’d like to admit watching a brown bear attempt to catch salmon in the brook. At first, I was entranced by the jumping salmon, but then I turned my attention to the bear. She appeared to be watching the fish stoically, calculating when to make a move. My partner and I rooted for her until she finally came up with the fish, at which point we cheered at the kitchen table.

The sandhill cranes at Rowe Sanctuary in Gibbon, Nebraska. Early spring is sandhill crane migration season, when hundreds of thousands of the elegant avians gather along Nebraska’s Platte River. It’s a stopover point on their journey from their wintering grounds in Mexico and the southern US to their breeding grounds in northern Canada. (Jane Goodall even called the sandhill crane migration one of the wonders of the world.) If you’re lucky, you might catch a big group liftoff in the morning.  

These great blue heron nests, monitored by the Chesapeake Bay Conservancy, provide a glimpse into life in the trees. The live stream rotates between 10 nests, which are home to an estimated 50 herons. Many of them (males and females) are incubating eggs right now. Fun fact: The blue heron is the largest heron in North America yet weighs less than 10 pounds.

Bonus: If you really must watch eagles, this one in Decorah, Iowa, is lying on three eggs that are likely to hatch in early April.