Thursday, February 28, 2013


The number one request from visitors at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is "Where can I see an eagle?"  Everyone wants  to see our national symbol with its 6 - 8 foot wingspan, soaring overhead, but only a few are fortunate enough to do so, and the time and place is largely unpredictable.  Eagles do winter at Lake Texoma  as well as below the Denison dam, and year-rounders have been seen in the vicinity of the dam. The eagle shown below was photographed by Joe Blackburn at the Refuge in February, 2013.

The eagle has played a special part in American culture, being chosen as the national symbol in 1782, and then following a sharp decline in population due to loss of habitat, being hunted as a predator on fish and livestock, and finally impacted by DDT, nearly becoming extinct.  In 1940 Congress passed  the Bald Eagle Protection Act, and various laws during the 1960's listed both the Bald Eagle and the Golden Eagle  as endangered or threatened and began providing protection for both species.  Then Rachel Carson's book, Silent Spring, led to the banning of DDT in 1972, and the species began to recover.

A few Bald Eagle facts, from the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service:

  • Females are larger than males, weighing about 14 pounds and having an 8 foot wingspan, as opposed to ten pounds and a six foot wingspan for the males.
  • Bald eagles are mostly dark brown until they reach 4 -5 years in age.
  • They live near rivers, lakes and marshes where they can find their primary food - fish.  they will also eat small animals and carrion.
  • Eagles mate for life, building nests ten feet across in the tops of large trees or alternately in cliffs or even on the ground where there are no trees.
  • Bald eagles may lay one - three eggs, which hatch in about 35 days; a month after hatching, the young are flying on their own.
  • Approximately 70% survive the first year of life, and the eagle lifespan may be as long as 15 - 25 years in the wild.
If your quest is to see an eagle when you visit Hagerman during the cold weather months, keep your eyes to skies!

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