We are unofficially designating this week as Eagle Week! Two eaglets are in the first ever eagles’ nest at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, definitely worth celebrating, and we were invited to give a program on the Bald Eagle this week for the Pottsboro first graders.
|Young eagles at HNWR, by Rick Cantu|
Of all the more than 300 species of birds that are on the Hagerman NWR bird check list, the one most visitors say they want to see is the eagle. And now that there are several nests going in the Texoma area we should be able to see them regularly year around.
The Bald Eagle was adopted as the national emblem in 1782 and serves as a symbol of wilderness and freedom. Benjamin Franklin said that the Bald Eagle was a bird of bad moral character (stealing food) and recommended the turkey instead. I wonder if the turkey had been chosen, what we would eat for Thanksgiving?
Eagles are one of our largest birds – they just weigh about 10 – 14 pounds but envision the size of an eagle’s wingspan – the first graders held a tape measure indicating the wingspan measurement of a whopping 6 – 7’5’ !!
Bald eagles have white feathers on their head and tail - but not until they get to be about 4 – 5 years old; often this makes viewers think they are seeing a Golden Eagle rather than a young Bald Eagle – You might wonder about the name bald…a long time ago bald meant white, not “hairless”.
Bald eagles are very good hunters and have terrific eyesight. The students learned that if they could see as well as an eagle they could stand on the playground and look down the street to a mile away and see a tennis ball in the grass there.
Watching the video, A Home for Pearl, we learned that Bald Eagles make a very big nest of sticks high up in a tree or on the edge of a cliff. They use the nest again and again, making it bigger every year. How big? One really huge eagle nest was over 9’ across – we had to use the tape measure again…. AND it weighed 2 TONS!! That’s about the same as 80 kids all added up – so 80 first graders stood up for comparison. That particular nest was reused over and over for 34 years.
Paralleling changes in the national eagle population, Texas Parks & Wildlife reports, as noted in the May edition of the Featherless Flyer, indicate that from 1971 – 2005 the number of known active eagles’ nest in Texas increased from 5 to 160. Nationally, after recovering from, first, being hunted, and then affected by DDT, they are no longer considered endangered or threatened; however the eagle population is considered threatened for Texas.
And that reminds me of the last fact I want to tell you – Most eagles can live for up to 20 years…the oldest one we know about lived to be 48 years old.
Note: The location of the eagles’ nest at Hagerman is known only to Refuge staff and is strictly “off-limits” for visitors, for the protection of the birds. Attempts by visitors to find it will jeopardize the continued use of the nest.