A livestream video of nesting eagles feeding their young reminded viewers that nature isn't always pretty (video below).
On April 26, a webcam that had been set up at the Hays bald eagle nesting site in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, captured two adult eagles feeding the carcass of a cat to their two young eaglets, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported.
The disturbing meal prompted many comments from squeamish nature watchers on online message boards.
Rachel Handel, the spokeswoman for the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, helped shed light on the incident for webcam viewers.
"After reviewing the footage, we believe the cat was dead when it was brought to the nest," Handel told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. "We don't know if it was a pet or feral. It's impossible to know if the cat was killed by the eagle or was a roadkill, but eagles are opportunists and just as apt to take something that’s already dead as something that’s alive to feed their young."
Handel explained that the eagles' choice of food, while not very appealing to viewers, was part of their natural diet.
"While many may cringe at this, the eagles bring squirrels, rabbits, fish (and other animals) into the nest to eat multiple times each day," she wrote on Facebook. "To people, the cat represents a pet, but to the eagles and to other raptors, the cat is a way to sustain the eaglets and help them to grow."
The eaglets in the video were reportedly about 6 weeks old at the time of the feeding and are expected to start fledging, or developing wing feathers capable of flight, in mid-June.
This is not the first time livestream eagle watchers in Pennsylvania have witnessed something disturbing on camera. A raccoon was seen unsuccessfully attacking the Hays nesting site in 2014. More recently, viewers watched a 2-day-old eaglet die on camera and its body thrown from the nest at another site in Hanover, Pennsylvania.
Handel said that the livestreaming cameras set up at wildlife sites throughout the state have helped enlighten the public about some of nature's less pleasant realities.
"The cameras are up 24/ 7 and can show a side of nature that isn't really pretty," she told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
"A lot of people have an idyllic view of these eagles. I think the eagle cameras are providing an education of what it takes to survive and raise offspring in nature."
Bald eagles can grow up to a size of 28 to 38 inches and fly up to speeds of 40 miles per hour, according to Animal Facts Guide. They typically feed on fish, ducks, snakes, turtles, rabbits, muskrats and dead animal carcasses.
WARNING: Graphic video