Early Bird

Hill Country nature park crows over first bald eagle sighting of the season

Hill Country park crows over first bald eagle sighting of the season

Canyon of the Eagles
The first eagle sighting came early this year. Photo by Sylvia Flannery

There’s no other way to put it, folks: The eagle has landed.

Canyon of the Eagles Nature Park & Resort, located in the Highland Lakes region along Lake Buchanan near the Hill Country community of Burnet, is reporting it had its first sighting of the season of a mature American bald eagle on August 1.

The sighting, which comes months earlier than the normal first sighting of the season, was noted after an eagle-eyed resort staffer spotted the bird, a species that usually returns to the area October through March for the nesting season. That’s when birdwatchers and nature lovers flock to the park and surrounding areas in hopes of spotting the majestic American bald eagle.

The birds — who mate for life and typically do so only once a year, often laying only one to three eggs — create nests that are reused and added to each year. An eagle’s nest, the largest of any North American bird, can be 4 to 5 feet wide and 2 to 4 feet deep, though the park’s experts say some can be as big as 10 feet wide and weigh 1,000 pounds.

The American bald eagle, a species that has long been the national emblem of the U.S., was placed on the endangered species list in 1967, but thanks to conservation efforts, it was removed from the list in 2007. 

Bald eagles thrive in the cliffs of the Colorado River and Lake Buchanan because it’s a bountiful area for their meals of choice: fish and waterfowl. Immature eagles — those without the white head and tail feathers — sometimes stay in the area year-round until they reach their breeding age at 4 or 5 years. Their average life span, according to the park, is about 15 to 20 years when living in the wild.

Fun fact: Bald eagles aren’t actually bald. The name derives from an outdated reference to the phrase “white-headed,” and male and female adults look roughly the same, though females are about 25 percent larger than males.

The U.S. boasts some 60 million birdwatchers, including plenty in the Central Texas area. Birdwatchers looking to spread their wings with an eagle sighting can visit the 940-acre nature park year-round. The park fee includes access to 14 miles of nature trails, 3 miles of private lakefront, and food or drinks at the resort restaurant and park store.

Overnight stays are also available, and the resort features 61 lodge-style guest rooms, as well as RV and camping sites. Guest rooms start at $159-$179 per night, and overnight guests have access to additional amenities, including the Eagle Eye Observatory, a two-hour guided boat cruise, and a variety of nature programs.