Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bald Eagles of the Trinity River, Dallas

Dallas is lucky enough to have at least two resident bald eagles in the Great Trinity Forest that overwinter.

The national bird of the United States since 1782, the bald eagle is the most well-known bird of prey in North America. Like many other species, the majestic bald eagle's continued existence has been severely threatened by human development, pesticide use, and poaching. In the past twenty-five years, however, the bald eagle has made great strides towards recovery thanks to federal legislation, bans on harmful pesticides such as DDT, public education, and other conservation and rehabilitation efforts. In some areas of the United States, bald eagle populations have recovered to such an extent that they have been downgraded to threatened rather than endangered species status.

The Bald Eagle is one of nature's most impressive birds of prey. Males generally measure 3 feet from head to tail, weigh 7 to 10 pounds, and have a wingspan of 6 to 7 feet. Females are larger, some reaching 14 pounds with a wingspan of up to 8 feet. Adults have a white head, neck, and tail and a large yellow bill.

Pair of Bald Eagles over the Trinity River in 2011 

Bald Eagle over the Trinity River near mouth of White Rock Creek, winter 2011

Unlike many other birds of prey in the Dallas area, the bald eagles in the Great Trinity Forest are extremely wary of people and will put as much distance as possible between themselves and a human. In many cases I have only seen fleeting glimpses of them. They roost in some of the tallest trees in the forest in one of the remote areas near the mouth of White Rock Creek where it enters the Trinity River.

The eagles seem to hunt the migratory duck population in the Lower Chain of Wetlands. In the winter of 2011 the population in these ponds were mostly Northern Shoveler Ducks and Coots.

Northern Shoveler ducks at Wetland Cells

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