Updated April 2, 2020
It’s fascinating to see animals behave as they would in the wild, and California’s world-renowned aquariums and zoos make that possible. Although you can’t visit in person right now, these live webcams provide a healthy dose of animal amusement while you’re relaxing at home.
Watching penguins swim and otters frolic is great entertainment for the kids—but it’s also soothing for stir-crazy adults during a stressful time. Plus: This may inspire your kids to dream of future adventures to see these animals in real life. Check out the diverse habitats featured in this collection of webcams from Golden State institutions, listed south to north.
With more than 10 live webcams to choose from, you could spend the better part of an afternoon watching how tigers, condors, elephants, burrowing owls, giraffes, and koalas spend their time at the San Diego Zoo and its sister Safari Park property. Two highly entertaining options: the polar cam, where white bears munch on carrots, lounge in funny positions, and plunge into a pool, and the ape cam, which showcases branch-swinging orangutans and siamangs.
2. Birch Aquarium, La Jolla
Calm your mind with a live view of Birch’s Giant Kelp Forest exhibit, where leopard sharks, moray eels, garibaldi damselfish, and a 300-pound giant black sea bass swim through the swaying plants. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, an aquarium educator answers your ocean-related questions during Facebook Live events.
3. Centennial Farm, Costa Mesa
Tune into this live cam to watch a mom pig and her adorable baby piglets eat, sleep, and play in their pen at the Centennial Farm at the Orange County Fair & Event Center.
The bald eagle pair of Jackie and Shadow reside in a nest located in a Jeffrey pine about 110 feet above the ground in Big Bear Lake. Thanks to Friends of Big Bear Valley, you can watch the duo gather sticks and interact in and around their nest whenever you want on the YouTube livestream. If you want to learn more about the family, ask questions on the ongoing YouTube chat or via their Facebook page.
5. Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach
In addition to its on-demand educational videos and entertaining activities for kids, the Long Beach aquarium offers 24-hour live webcams showcasing many of its animals. Watch above ground to see penguins eat, sleep, and jump into the water—then check out the underwater view to see them swim from below.
Get to know the animals at the L.A. Zoo through its “Bring the Zoo to You” series on Instagram and Facebook. Take a walk with the rescued green-winged macaw Popeye, or follow the early stages of Angela, the first baby gorilla born at the zoo in more than 20 years.
Without human visitors around, zookeepers are letting Monty, a five-year-old Humboldt penguin, wander around and meet some of his fellow zoo-mates on daily adventures. Tune into the zoo’s Instagram or Facebook page to watch him meet a gorilla, giraffe, and more of the 500 animals on the waterfront property.
The popular resident sea otters have recently gone behind the scenes as part of the aquarium’s Sea Otter Surrogacy Program, which pairs orphaned pups with adopted mothers to learn new skills. While the aquarium is temporarily closed, guests get a unique opportunity to watch these young otters learn how to explore and prepare for a healthy return to the wild on the Sea Otter Cam. The aquarium also features 10 different live cams on its website, showcasing everything from mesmerizing jellies to a diverse open-ocean community of fish, stingrays, turtles and sharks.
See what black bears, sun bears, condors, and elephants are up to in their Oakland habitats, which are live-streamed on the zoo’s webcams. You may spot the three sun bears (Pagi, Bulan, and Ting Ting) playing with a ball, unwrapping boxes, or searching for food around their habitat—zookeepers hide treats throughout the exhibit to encourage them to forage as they would in the wild. On April 2, the zoo introduced an exclusive "Behind-the-Scenes Live" program to give viewers the rare opportunity to see animals up close as they are fed and cared for. Monday through Friday, you can tune in to see the 20- to 30-minute broadcasts, which will also be archived for viewing at a later date. The subscription—which supports animal care during the COVID-19 closure—is $14.95 per month, or $9.95 per month for Zoo members (who also get the first 30 days free). Learn more about the program here.
10. Pier 39, San Francisco
While you wait for your next visit to Pier 39’s K-Dock, you can watch the famous sea lions sunbathe and play on the pier’s webcam. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the barking pinnipeds’ arrival at their chosen home. The docks proved to be an ideal environment for the animals, given the protection from predators, and they’ve been there (depending on the season) ever since.
In addition to these videos listed above, the California Coastal Commission has also compiled a list of live webcams for ocean animals across the state.