Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Family life of a Bald Eagle

Observing a family over the past couple of years in the forest of East Texas, I have grown emotionally attached. I think many people see their responsibility for the diversity of life on our planet. As a co-resident of our planet, a human and an Eagle share instincts developed through natural survival evolution through the ages. In the Bible, we are told that man has the responsibility to care care for what God provided upon this planet. We are placed here to make sure his work is kept in tact. It is a huge responsibility that we carry on our shoulders.

Take this Eagle family for an example of the human / creature connection. The Eagle will tolerate human presence but its family life is, after all, what is most important to him. Both male and female share the responsibility of the nest.  This youngster is being cared for by one of its parents. After bringing a small animal to the nest, the parent leaves the animal with the children in the nest. One of the eaglets can be seen here in the nest. The parent has done the work, provided food for the baby and now is enjoying the wind and warmth of the sun, cleaning itself while being close to the eaglets in the nest.

Sometimes, a parent must just watch out for predators such as a vulture, owl or a tree climbing coon.  Life is dedicated to raising the eaglets. Typically, we find two eaglets in each nest and the eagles will raise only one family each year. They arrive in late December and prefer to use an existing nest. It takes a lot of effort and time to build a new one from scratch. I have seen three nests for this couple over the years I have lived here. I am assuming the same birds are nesting at this spot but no one knows the age of the birds.

Duties as a sentry also requires flight over the neighborhood to see what may be on the ground and to observe any threats in the distance. Reconnaissance flights are also needed to find close and easily caught food. A parent is always close. Maybe we don't see them all the time, but they will fly at very high altitude to find food. They see us and we have no idea they are there. "Eagle eyes"  are well known to be highly developed for long distance precise vision. Their hearing senses are also excellent. Each time I have walked through the forest near a nest, they appear after I hear some calls. (See the Call of the Eagle).

So how attached are they to their young? This is one of the amazing features of the bird to me.  After caring for them day and night in the nest, they then teach them to fly, catch their food and then raise families. This is accomplished over about two years. The eaglets will migrate with their parents to the north during the summer and learn the places and means to make the journey. Up north, they continue to learn how to fish and catch animals with the help of their parents. This is one of the few birds that migrates south for the winter to nest, so when December comes, they fly back with their parents, another lesson in making and surviving a journey back to their nesting habitat.

As a sentry, the bird does not care what direction it faces. He can see in all directions from one perch position. He can turn his head more than 180 degrees and has peripheral vision to boot!

I have seen one of last year's eaglets, not full grown adults but not yet with full color, near the nest. Staying close to mama and daddy, it is content to fish and hunt with them until time to migrate back north. Then it will likely fly alone or with his sibling as this family will be caring for the two new eaglets needing their full attention all the way back north. They may find nesting locations near here but not likely very close because one of the criteria is to have plenty of range for hunting, not too near other families. However, our area certainly has its possibilities, with the new Lake Paloma and tree stands on Spring Creek. A second family started nesting here last year. I do not have any information on that nest this year.

The Bald eagle is a tremendous example of a responsible parent to us, working hard to ensure the best outcome and life for their youngsters. The Bald Eagle is truly a survivor and has been coming back strong in recent decades as a genuine and respected resident of many communities like ours.

In Central Texas, near Austin, there is a nesting couple that can be seen from the highway through binoculars. It is far enough away to not be bothered by visitors, but clearly visible. If anyone wants to know where that nest is, I can provide the information. Visiting that nest will not impair the family life of those birds.  Photography is feasible there with a long or strong zoom lens. 

1 comment:

EagleEye22 said...

I live in Longview Tx and I vaguely remember hearing about this Eagle family..where exactly is this nest located??I have fallen deeply in love with the Decorah Eagles from Iowa on Ustream,my second year watching..I usually see redtail hawks around here..but never an Eagle..I would be beside myself in utter joy if I saw one..do you have any tips on any nests closer to Longview or where to begin looking??I deeply admire you and have nothing but he highest respect for you..God Bless you for all your hard work and dedication to these beloved beautiful Creatures..God is amazing:)My email address is redman1022@att.net..I am an eagle fanatic and would appreciate anything you can tell me:)