Tucked snugly in their nest, Roza and Goober wait patiently for their mother to return with the next food delivery. At the same time, watching online and in real time, hundreds of virtual birdwatchers are waiting patiently too, hoping to catch a glimpse of mum's arrival.
The two hummingbird chicks and their obviously hard-working mother Phoebe – who is on her third brood of the year – make unlikely internet stars. But the little family now has a dedicated online following (see video below). While Phoebe flies back and forth with nectar to feed her tiny young, the site's chatroom is abuzz with "ooohs" and "ahhhs" from Portugal to Pakistan. The chicks, that hatched the size of raisins in their nest in Orange County, California, in the first week of March are due to fly the nest by the end of the month.
The site is one of a growing number catering for online birdwatchers. The floodgates opened for watching live nature in an internet phenomenon known as "puppycam" last October, when a litter of six Shiba Inua puppies drew 15 million hits to the self-broadcasting site ustream. Since then, the online zoo has been dominated by dogs, cats – and birdwatchers. The sites allow enthusiasts to watch animal behaviour in exotic locations from the comfort of their living room or office.
"The site gives me the ability to travel to the rainforest without leaving home and to see things I feel privileged to have witnessed," says Suzanne Baldwin, a housewife and mother-of-two in Llantwit Fardre, near Cardiff. "I used to do the laundry, read books all day. Now I can't keep myself away from the screen. It's like virtual tourism – I was in Ecuador yesterday!"
One of the most successful sites was set up seven months ago by Luciano Breves, 37. He fixed a webcam on the balcony of his home in the Atlantic rainforest in Parana, Brazil, and has created a window into the rainforest that has attracted over 130,000 visitors from across the world.
It is now one of the most visited sites in Brazil by foreigners.
Viewers online are treated to a whirl of brilliantly-coloured hummingbirds flickering around the screen, some of the 49 bird species so far logged on the site – including the blood-red Brazilian tanager, Ramphocelus bresilius, the yellow-necked Campo flicker woodpecker, Colaptes campestris, and the violet-capped wood nymph, Thalurania glaucopis.
"The original idea came about when I worked with environmental education and I was looking for a way to observe animals with the minimal of interference possible," says Breves. "My wife suggested the internet but it was very slow then, in 1997, and the idea was shelved.
"Then, when I moved to Morretes [a town in Parana state], the quantity of birds that started to appear at our feeders was amazing and I decided to show some friends through live streaming. By the second day there were 40 watching and by the second month, 30,000 had tuned in."
Buoyed by his success, Breves decided to concentrate on the project full-time, and now spends at least five hours a day in the chatroom. "Most of the visitors are foreigners who don't know the names of the birds here," he says. "The idea is to spread the message of the marvellous things we have here to protect them and stimulate tourism in observing nature."
Morretes, a town with a population of just 15,000, is now becoming a magnet for real-life birdwatchers, with visitors from the US and Europe.
Breves's site provides a unique form of escapism for birdwatchers all over the globe. Kaitlyn Baldwin, 10, watches with her mother, Suzanne, in Llantwit Fardre. "My favourite one is the bananasplit [her nickname for the bananaquit, Coereba flaveola]. He is cute. I love his little fat body ..." Kaitlyn has learned the names of almost all the birds on Breves's balcony.
"She has actually made posters and hung them up in our neighbourhood asking people to recycle and save the environment because of the webcam," says Kaitlyn's mother,"because she says she doesn't want those birds to be homeless."
Another regular, 53-year-old Stephanie, sneaks a peek at the 20 webcams she has in her web browser favourites as she works in reception at a car dealership in California. "It's addictive! I get to see species I don't have around my area."
Joe Dellwo, 45, who first started streaming Phoebe the hummingbird two years ago has seen his pet project grow into what is now a global community.
"I showed family and friends and then posted on a forum or two and now it's huge, very popular in Europe. Poland and Hungary are avid!" he says.
Has it taken over his life? "Yeah, and my bush. Drives my wife nuts that she can't prune ... I really get all caught up in the whole thing. It hurts to watch an egg begin to hatch but not quite make it. I can't help but think of her as a loved pet."