An Audubon kind of reality show....

An Audubon kind of reality show....

Nancy Bazilchuk
Published: 05/27/2010


The pair and chick, with a view of the outskirts of Bergen, from http://tjeld.uib.no/
...is playing out on the rooftop of the science building at the University of Bergen in Norway, where a group of biologists and computer wizards have installed an HD webcam not far from a roof-nesting European oystercatcher.

It’s true that birdcams are not that uncommon, and for that matter, neither are roof-nesting oystercatchers, at least not in Europe. Aberdeen, Scotland has more than 200 nesting pairs. What makes this particular set up so captivating is the seamlessness of the streaming and the incredible detail provided by the camera.

You can see tiny raindrops beading up on the female’s feathers (this is coastal Norway, after all), and you can practically feel the fluff on the one chick that has already hatched. I like watching the chick try to squirm its way under the adult’s wing to get warm, and the way the adult settles itself on the one remaining egg (which sadly, probably won’t hatch). 

Arild Breistøl, one of the biologists and IT wizards who helped set up the project, told me that oystercatchers have been nesting on this particular roof since 1999.  Biologists installed the first webcam in 2005.  This year the group got a grant from the university to buy the HD webcam, the results of which are visible at the click of a mouse.

The nesting pair has taken on a bit of a celebrity status in Norway after the national broadcasting corporation, NRK, ran a story about them. There was even a naming contest for the pair. The winners were Kjell (the male, pronounced “tshell”) and Kjellaug (the female, “tshell-awg”), Norwegian names that sound very similar to the Norwegian name for oystercatchers, which is tjeld (pronounced “tcheld”). These birds are also into social networking, where on their Facebook page they have more than 1,000 mostly Norwegian followers.

The best is that the long spring days in Bergen, with sunrise at about 4:30 a.m. and sunset at 10:40 p.m., negate the time difference between Norway and North America. That means American webcam viewers can watch this oystercatcher family raise their young, too.