Eagles are big, strong birds of prey known as the “king of all birds’‘ and appear to soar magnificently in the skies while looking for their next meal. Even though it is not the most graceful flier, the raptor’s incredible speed in the air belies its massive size compared to other birds. There are still about 60 different species of eagle in existence today.
The fish or sea eagles, snake eagles, forest eagles, and booted eagles are the main groups into which they can be separated. These are not necessarily taxonomic categories; they are rather informal. But do these majestic birds of prey live in Texas?
Luckily for Texans, two types of eagles live in the Lone Star State. These magnificent birds represent many things, like liberty, bravery, resilience, inspiration, sincerity, triumph, and pride. Not many eagle species live in Texas, unlike other raptors. Only a small number of species can be seen across the entire continent. Below, we will explore the 2 types of eagles that call Texas home.
Background on Eagles
The eagle is one of the biggest birds; only some condors and vultures can compete with it in size. The largest eagle species, like the Steller’s sea eagle and harpy eagle, can weigh up to 20 pounds and have wingspan measurements of about 7 or 8 feet from tip to tip. These birds have the best vision in the animal kingdom, and they have 20/5 vision compared to an average human’s 20/20.
When it finally sees prey, the bird typically swoops down and grabs its unsuspecting victim with its feet and talons. It moves remarkably quickly in this action. The peregrine falcon, the world’s fastest animal, and the ordinary golden eagle can both drop-down at speeds of between 150 to 200 miles per hour.
The extreme northern tundra, tropical jungles, and deserts are just a few of the many habitats where these birds can be found. Nine species are native to Central and South America, but just two species, the bald eagle and golden eagle are prevalent in North America. The majority of them are in the Eastern Hemisphere, mainly in Africa. Even many of the islands scattered around the Indian and Pacific Oceans have their own unique species.
2 Types of Eagles in Texas
1. Bald Eagle
Bald eagles are constantly present in Texas as breeders and winter residents. Breeding and non-breeding or wintering birds make up the two populations of bald eagles in Texas. The bald eagle, the country’s emblem, is found throughout the United States, Canada, and northern Mexico.
The bald eagle is a symbol of strength and power and one of the most well-liked animals in North America. It flies beautifully through the air, captivating both amateurs and experts. Although it was previously in danger of going extinct, it has since recovered enough to serve as an incredible success story for conservation.
This American bird’s identification is a rather straightforward process. The bald eagle is among the most stunning raptors in all of nature. Males often weigh 7 to 10 pounds, have a wingspan of 6 to 7 feet, and measure 3 feet from head to tail. Larger than males, females can weigh up to 14 pounds and have a wingspan of up to 8 feet. It is one of North America’s most massive birds, standing between 28 and 38 inches tall from head to tail. Adults have a big yellow bill and a white head, throat, and tail.
The bald eagle can occasionally extend its wings to a height of more than seven feet from tip to tip as it flies effortlessly through the sky. The head and tail feathers are white, whereas most of the body is covered in dark brown plumage.
Bald eagles have powerful wings that allow them to soar miles in all directions while riding thermal currents and powerful updrafts.
The only sea eagle species that exclusively inhabits North America is the bald eagle. Sightings have been reported as far south as Belize and Bermuda and as far north as the Arctic. The most typical environments are established forests close to a significant body of water.
Bald eagles lay their eggs in Texas from October to July. Breeding populations mainly inhabit the eastern half of the state and the counties that border the coast from Rockport to Houston. The Panhandle, Central, and East regions of Texas and other regions with suitable habitats throughout the state are home to most non-breeding or wintering populations.
Nests are mostly built by the female, with assistance from the male. The traditional nest is lined with softer materials like leaves, grass, and Spanish moss and is made of huge sticks. It has a diameter of around five to six feet and may be the biggest nest of any American bird.
Bald eagles are predatory opportunists. When these items are easily accessible, they can consume a range of ducks and other birds, small animals, and turtles, in addition to fish, which is their main source of nutrition. Eagles’ talons are extended a few inches below the water’s surface to catch fish. Eagles frequently consume catfish, coots, rough fish, and softshell turtles, according to studies conducted in Texas. Fish that live at the bottom of the ocean, such as catfish and carp, tend to be more prevalent in their diet. Additionally, carrion is frequently consumed, especially by young birds.
The bald eagle was once one of North America’s most endangered and victimized bird species. By the middle of the 20th century, just a few hundred breeding pairs were left. The birds have rebounded to a population of 10,000 breeding pairs in the lower 48 states, with about 156 pairs in Texas, from 450 breeding pairs in the middle of the 1960s, including only five in Texas. In 2007, the bald eagle was excluded from the endangered species list.
2. Golden Eagle
The golden eagle is the largest avian predator in Texas, and all the other species appear to be aware of this. They are a magnificent and mesmerizing sight as they soar and rule the entire sky and have no natural predators. Based on egg dates between February 16 and October 11, golden eagles breed in Texas from early February to late November. From early October to mid-March, Texas receives the majority of its winter visitors, who are present from late August to late April.
Regardless of gender, golden eagles are 33.1 inches tall and can weigh up to 13.5 pounds. Their wings resemble hawk’s in that they are long and broad (only bigger). They rank among the largest birds in North America thanks to their average 7.2-foot wingspan. Golden eagles boast dark to light brown plumage. They get their name from the faint golden shine on the back of their neck and head feathers. Adult golden eagles and immature bald eagles have similar appearances and might be mistaken for one another. The difference between these two eagles is that the bald eagle doesn’t mind exposing a small portion of its leg, whereas the golden eagle has feathers that reach to the tops of its feet.
Golden eagles are mainly seen in far West Texas in the Lone Star State. The Highway 385 prairie dog village north of Marathon, the farmland south of Dell City, and Ranch Road 505 southwest of the Davis Mountains are the best sites to look for.
The most common eagle species, golden eagles are widespread in the extreme north, including Alaska, Siberia, and Norway, and frequently favor these arid environments. They can be found all over the United States, from New England in the east to Mexico in the south.
Although golden eagles prefer cliffs for their nesting sites, they are also known to use trees, observation towers, and nesting platforms. These raptors have even been observed nesting on the ground!
Golden eagles like wide places with vegetation even though they can be found in practically any climate. They frequently seek steep and rocky environments because they don’t appear to enjoy urban development. These birds favor expansive open environments with features like cliffs, mountains, or hills. Golden eagles are also common in agricultural areas, arctic tundra, grasslands, and coniferous woods.
Golden eagles consume mammals, whereas bald eagles typically consume fish. Jackrabbits, hares, marmots, ground squirrels, and prairie dogs are some of their preferred prey. They are carnivores who frequently scavenge to find a tasty meal. These raptors have also been observed hunting and killing larger creatures such as badgers, coyotes, mountain goats, and small deer.
Golden eagles are uncommon and rare locally in the west Texas region where they are found. However, the data available are insufficient to offer a physiologically significant population trend for Texas. Furthermore, statistics from 327 routes in North America show a statistically significant annual population shift of +2.9 percent for the years 1980 to 2006.
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