9 Animal Cams You Need in Your Life

From an African watering hole to booming prairie chickens, otters, penguins, naked mole-rats and pandas, these are 9 animal cams you need in your life.

A couple of years ago, I set up a second computer display on my desk as a tool to improve my productivity. Turns out, though, I’m not a work-on-two-screens kind of person. I’m a work-on-one-screen-and-stream-animal-cams-on-the-other kind of person. Which means I’m also the kind of person who has a long list of animal cam links on regular rotation in my bookmarks bar.

The list below, in no particular order, includes 9 cams I find myself returning to again and again. I find these cams heartening because, like many people, I just love watching animals. But I also love these cams because they are an antidote to the despair I sometimes feel when it seems people are only growing more distant from the animals that share our planet.

There is hope and magic here in these living glimpses of a wild world that would otherwise remain hidden and unknown to us. So I hope you’ll check these out and share any of your own favorites in the comments. (And if you know of anyone who has a good reptile cam, please let me know. I’d really like to add one to my list.)

It’s important to note here that the majority of cams on this list owe a tremendous debt to Explore.org, a philanthropic media organization and division of the Annenberg Foundation. Their site is an amazing compendium of animal cams, from bears swimming in the Katmai to a family that raises great danes to be service dogs. You can also subscribe to Explore.org’s YouTube channels and even sign up for text alerts if something cool is happening on one of the cams you like.

But be warned: the sheer volume of animal cam goodness can be overwhelming. The first time I discovered explore.org, I lost an entire day.

African Watering Hole Live Cam

Mpala Research Station / Kenya

To my everlasting regret, I have yet to make it to Africa. This web cam from the Mpala Research Station in Kenya is my consolation. It has video and audio so I can have an authentic African sound track of bird song while watching hippos drift in the water, elephants come down to drink, and giraffes picking their way along the shore. There are several different camera views you can switch between, and a robust (and friendly) community in the comment threads. Scrolling through screenshots posted by users is a great way to see some amazing things — like an elephant silhouetted in moonlight — that you might have missed.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Otter Cam

Monterey Bay Aquarium (Monterey Bay, California) operates from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. US Pacific Time. After hours, you can watch highlights.

Clearly, no animal cam list would be complete without otters. At the risk of dating myself, I first fell in love with otters as a child watching The Year of the Otter episode on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. Between that show and Ranger Rick, my career path was pretty much set from a young age.

I like the otter cam at Monterey Bay Aquarium where you can tune in at 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3:30 pm (all times U.S. Pacific) to catch feeding time. If you want more otters, the Seattle Aquarium, the Vancouver Aquarium, and Tennesse Aquarium also have cameras in their otter exhibits. And really, who wouldn’t want to have access to as many otter cams as possible?

Baby Panda Cam

Wolong Nature Reserve / China

Does this really need any other description besides “Baby Panda Cam?” There are several panda cams out there, but I like this one from the Wolong Nature Reserve in China best. (For one thing, given the time difference, if I want to watch when it’s night in the continental U.S. where I live, the pandas are usually active on the other side of the world.) A project of Pandas International, Wolong’s Panda cam gives a glimpse into the Panda Center’s active breeding and reintroduction program.

TNC’s Dunn Ranch Prairie Cam

When I lived in Illinois, I learned to love the prairie at TNC’s Nachusa Grasslands. It’s still one of my favorite places, but I’m a long way from the prairie now, and have to get my prairie fix virtually. From roaming bison herds to booming prairie chickens, blooming wildflowers and more than 100 species of birds, TNC’s Dunn Ranch Preserve in Missouri hosts a live Prairie Cam that is one of my favorites. Throughout the year, preserve staff move the cameras to capture all the beauty that this landscape brings, even in winter.

From late March to late April, the cameras capture the greater prairie chicken booming live from Dunn Ranch’s historic lek. In the off-season, you can watch highlight reels of the iconic mating rituals of greater prairie chickens, and bison herds making their way through the pasture with spring calves (the red dogs) trundling along beside them.

TNC’s Salt Lake Kestrel Cam

Kestrel Cam on TNC’s Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve / Utah

Every spring, thousands of nature lovers watch kestrel chicks grow up in real time alongside their harried parents thanks to the live cam mounted on a nest box at TNC’s Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve in Utah. In 2023, the first of five hatchlings made their debut on Kestrel Cam on May 17. Kestrel Cam, like many TNC preserve cams, run seasonally. But, while you’re waiting for the 2024 season of Kestrel cam, you can catch the highlight reel. It hits all the highlights, from eggs to hatching to the bittersweet empty nest that remains after all five chicks of the 2023 brood take to the air above the Great Salt Lake.

Bookmark the link because Kestrel Cam returns every spring!

Penguin Cam

Penguin Cam (there are multiple views available on the main page)

Penguins are pretty much tied with otters when it comes to my favorite critters to watch on camera, especially when I’m on deadline. They are just so full of personality and the way they interact is a fascinating glimpse into penguin-community dynamics. My son loved penguins and we spent a lot of time reading about them, looking at pictures of them, and, in one memorable incident at a research facility in the U.S., narrowly avoided a penguin poop barrage. Even with all of our research, we still made the rookie mistake of standing directly behind a chinstrap penguin. And well, that’s not such a good place to be.

I also like the California Academy of Sciences site because it has so much interesting information about penguins to go along with live cam. As you might expect, it also has a whole collection of fascinating web cams to choose from. The Farallon Islands Live Web Cam is also one of my favorites.

Sea Jelly Cam

This used to link to the weedy seadragon cam at the Aquarium of the Pacific, which was strangely hypnotic. When that camera (sadly) went offline, I switched over to the nettle cam, which turned out to be similarly mesmerizing. As a snorkeler and a diver (and a child traumatized by a couple of stings), I have a somewhat ambivalent relationship to jellies, but as a nature observer, they’re amazing to watch.

This cam is like having an aquarium in my office that I don’t have to clean. I’ve also developed a new interest in the natural history of cnidarians (jellies) and ctenophores (comb jellies), species that have been on Earth for more than 500 million years. And even though people call them “jelly fish,” they’re definitely not fish.

Naked Mole-rat Cam

Naked mole-rat cam / Smithsonian National Zoo

“So cute,” said my friend who recommended the National Zoo’s Naked Mole-Rat cam when I told her I was updating this list. Well, cute, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder and I’m not sold on cute (those teeth!), but they are interesting. Which also brings us to their teeth, according to the FAQ on the National Zoo page, they can move their individual front teeth, like chopsticks! It gets more fascinating from there.

Channel Islands Ocean Web Cam

Channel Islands National Seashore / California

This is my Zen cam. If they’re tracking IP addresses to this site, I probably look like a stalker. Streaming live (in the spring and summer) from the kelp forest off Anacapa Island in California’s Channel Islands National Seashore, this has become my go-to cam. I could watch the kelp sway in the wave action and the orange garibaldi, eels and spiny lobsters dart through the sun-shot waters all day. This is another explore.org cam so when it’s dark or if the cam is offline for the season, the site will still stream highlights.

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  1. tyler bissessar says:

    penguin habitat

  2. Maureen ONeill says:

    Brooks Falls/ Bears

  3. Ann M. Elder says:

    Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park, Alaska during the salmon run.

  4. sandy Inselman says:

    your waving kelp with sound,,,,calming

  5. ispy-horsecam says:

    This is great advice! Very honest and practical.I really enjoyed this post.Nice post!! these tips may help me ! My favorite work advice.Thanks so much for a detailed post! It is very helpful for.Your post is helpful to avoid the mistakes.

  6. David says:

    Love the baby panda cam !

  7. Holli Davis says:

    Southwest Florida Eagle Cam! Expecting an egg for Harriet & M any day now! You should tune in! Thanks for this list, gonna check them out!

  8. Gary Brown says:

    Lower river bear cam, Katmai, AK

  9. Graeme Ure says:

    Thanks, not reptiles but you might like this one too
    Incubating eggs is pretty boring stuff but it should hot up in January when they hatch

  10. Holly Pilgrim says:

    Decorah eagles! I have learned so much…!

  11. robrt dowling says:

    to be honest all. but super favorites are: elephant cams at sanctuary in tenn , blind cat rescue cams in nc, bat cams at sanctuary in texas, bird cams at cornell school bird lab in ny-all in usa BUT as i said ALL. this is a great way that i never had growing up for kids to watch all manner of natures creatures all around the world. my world and i guess most people back in the day to see animals was at a zoo or circus, of course they are now on the way to extiction list.

  12. Christine Braun says:

    I ♥ WildEarth.tv. Along with several live cams, twice daily they present SafariLIVE! Live safari’s in the South African bush. The guides/presenters are very knowledgeable and entertaining. You can also view on YouTube, Periscope Nat. Geo & UStream I believe. Absolutely addicting ?

  13. Nadia Peimbert says:

    This is so awesome, I don’t even have words to begin to describe. !!!!!!

  14. Janet Smoker says:

    The Cornell Albatross cam in Hawaii. Hatching starts in January! Most charming chicks ever. Complete with a Hawaiian birds sound track, very soothing for those of us who can’t get to the islands very often.

    1. Cara Byington says:

      AlbatrossCam! How did I know about this? I will definitely check it out in January. Thanks!