From the Chairman’s Desk: BALD EAGLE – EMBLEM OF FREEDOM
On June 20, 1782, the Third Continental Congress adopted the bald eagle as the emblem of freedom for the United States of America and its Grand Seal. The eagle is a graceful, fascinating creature indigenous to North America. But one of the founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, was not too keen on this decision. He felt the eagle was “a bird of bad moral character” because of their feeding habits in which they snatch meals away from other birds and mammals, including humans. Franklin preferred the turkey for the emblem because he felt it was a bird of “courage”. The emblem of the eagle appears on the flag of the President, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and other government organizations. The eagle was declared an endangered species in 1963 after it was discovered that only 417 nesting pairs existed. Nearly ten years later due to conservation, their recovery was a success story, and it was removed as endangered species. But it remains a crime to kill an eagle. Eagles can now live to be more than 35 years-old.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine recently wrote: “At 5 years old, these birds seek a lifelong partner by performing courtship calls and aerial displays, including a cartwheel maneuver known as the death spiral. The spectacle begins at a high altitude as the eagles lock their talons while tumbling down, breaking apart just before hitting the ground. The dangerous display exhibits the fitness levels of the eagles, a factor in choosing a partner. Once coupled, the eagles build their nests, called aeries, atop large, sturdy trees to ensure the safety of their eggs. Both males and females gather materials such as sticks, grass and cornstalks to build the nest. However, the female does most of the arranging. Together they build some of the largest and heaviest bird nests- usually 6 feet in diameter and 4 feet tall- typically taking nearly three months to finalize. They live near rivers and lakes where they can find fish, a primary food source, but also feed on waterfowl, reptiles, amphibians, rabbits and carrion.”
“The female lays one to three eggs in the big nest. Eaglets hatch about 35 days later; they are nearly full grown at 9 weeks…At 4 or 5 years old, they develop the characteristic bald eagle features… Bald eagles have a wingspan of 6 to 8 feet, allowing them to dive at speeds of 75 to 100 mph and soar more than 10,000 feet high. Immature eagles will spend their first few years roaming and traveling hundreds of miles each day. They can spot prey up to a mile away and will capture it in a quick swooping motion, clasping it with their talons. Bald eagles can float and use their wings to ‘row’ through deeper water, an advantage when catching fish.”
Breeding populations occur in the eastern half of Texas and in coastal counties from Rockport to Houston; non-breeding and wintering populations occur in the Panhandle, Central and East Texas. Bald eagles are not bald. According to the Parks & Wildlife: “The name is derived from the word ‘”balde”, an old English word meaning white, describing their snowy-feathered heads.