By Cheryl Conley, TWRC Wildlife Center
A pair of beautiful bald eagles are now calling Tomball, Texas, home and they’ve become quite the attraction. People are coming from miles around just to get a glimpse of them and to snap a photo. Should you decide to come and take a look, remember to keep your distance and do not disturb the birds in any way.
Bald eagles are protected by multiple federal laws that include the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Lacey Act as well as other state and municipal protections that may be in place.
The Eagle Act was originally passed in 1940 and was amended in 1972, increasing civil penalties. The Act provides criminal penalties for persons who “take, possess, sell, purchase, barter, offer to sell, purchase or barter, transport, export or import, at any time or any manner, any bald eagle … [or any golden eagle], alive or dead, or any part*, nest, or egg thereof.” The Act defines “take” as “pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, molest or disturb.”
“Disturb” means “to agitate or bother a bald or golden eagle to a degree that causes, or is likely to cause, based on the best scientific information available, 1) injury to an eagle, 2) a decrease in its productivity, by substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior, or 3) nest abandonment, by substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior.”
Here are some interesting facts about Bald Eagles:
- They have been our national symbol since 1782.
- They are almost always found near water.
- They live to be between 20 and 30 years old. The oldest recorded bald eagle was 38.
- Their wingspan is between 6 feet and 7.5 feet.
- Females are larger than males.
- They can see 4 to 7 times better than humans.
- They can see fish up to a mile away.
- They mate for life but should one of the pair die, the other will find another mate.
- They return to the same nest every year. They will make repairs and add additional twigs, grass, etc. each year. The nests average 2-4 feet deep and 4-5 feet wide. The largest nest on record weighed 2 tons!
- The female lays 1 to 3 eggs and both the male and female take turns sitting on the eggs. The first egg will hatch after 35 days of incubation. The next egg will hatch several days later.
- Sometimes the first eaglet to hatch will kill the younger one(s).
- By 3 weeks of age, the feet and beaks are nearly as large as an adult.
- Eaglets fledge between 8 and 14 weeks of age.
- It’s not until 3 years of age that the head and tail begin to turn white. In the 4th year, the eagle gets its white head, tail and upper and undertail coverts.
- Eagles can swim—sort of. If they swoop down for a fish and it’s too heavy, they will paddle to shore.
TWRC Wildlife Center asks that you respect all wildlife. With regard to the Tomball eagles, keep your distance, view with binoculars, keep the noise level down and report anyone harassing them or getting too close. They could be breaking a federal law.