Freedom and liberty will soon be taking off in Washington — no, not the political kind, the eagle kind.
Freedom and Liberty are the names of two baby bald eagles who became internet stars when they hatched live via webcam in March.
The names were announced Tuesday at a ceremony at the U.S. National Arboretum near Capitol Hill.
Bald eagles with their young at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, March 2016. (Credit: National Eagle Foundation)
The baby eagles and their parents, Mr. President and The First Lady, hit the big time after remote-controlled cameras set up near their nest captured and transmitted rare, live images of their arrival via the internet.
More than 30,000 webcam fans from around the world submitted names for the eaglets in a “Name the Nestlings” contest that was run through social media.
The entries were narrowed down to the five most popular pairings — Stars and Stripes, Freedom and Liberty, Honor and Glory, Anacostia and Potomac, and Cherry and Blossom — and those pairings were presented to the public for a vote.
Arboretum director Richard Olsen worked with the American Eagle Foundation and other partners in the U.S. to bring the live webcam images of America’s national bird to millions of viewers around the world.
“This is a really good example of live-action nature," he said. "So much of what we watch today on TV or our devices is not really live, other than sports, so to be literally eating, breathing, living and sleeping with these eagles through these webcams is giving people firsthand knowledge of what's going on and what it takes to raise an American bald eagle family."
“We’ve really gotten attached to this eagle family, and the way to cement it is with names," he added.
A learning opportunity
Al Cecere, president of the American Eagle Foundation, said they held the naming contest "because we thought it would really be a way to bring the public even closer to these birds and feel part of what they're doing and learn more about them, especially the schoolchildren.”
The two eaglets are officially named — Freedom and Liberty — at a ceremony at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, April 26, 2016. (J. Taboh/VOA)
Cecere said the project was notable because it came along at "a time where people are so divided," yet they wanted to "experience something that they could share together, that they could agree upon.”
More than 35 million people from 100 countries have been visiting the webcam to watch the nestlings grow and develop under the watchful eyes of their parents.
The cameras serve a dual purpose: helping biologists learn more about eagle behavior and educating the public.
Freedom and Liberty, whose gender is still unknown, are expected to leave their nest in June, when they're about 12 weeks old.
“We hope that these eaglets will grow up ... and maybe find a mate someday and come back to this area and set up their own nest and raise their own babies here in the Washington, D.C., area,” said Cecere.