A nesting pair of bald eagles chose an unlikely but convenient place to raise their two chicks: a wooded area behind a Target store in Tomball, Texas, a Houston suburb. When local naturalist Claire Moore heard about the nest, she went out to see it for herself, and decided to spread the happy news. “I wanted to share my love of eagles and birds in general with other people,” she says.
To that end, Moore started a Facebook group in early March called Enjoy the Tomball Eagles, where she and others post photos and updates on the nest. She never expected it to grow as large as it has; yesterday, the group hit 500 members. “People are fascinated and excited by these eagles,” Moore says. She started scheduling informal “viewing parties” so that she could be present to answer questions and provide extra binoculars and bird scopes. “Folks drop by and get to see the eaglets, and they have so many questions,” she says. “They want to know how old they are, and when they’ll start flying. Everybody from photographers to parents with kids has visited.”
The presence of the nest represents a larger success story. Bald eagles have made a dramatic comeback since the 1960s, when the pesticide DDT decimated their populations by polluting their food sources and disrupting reproduction by weakening the shells of eggs. After the Environmental Protection Agency banned DDT in 1972, eagle populations began the slow path to recovery. “Now, we have a lot of pairs around here, and most people don’t realize how common they’ve become,” Moore says. “It’s been amazing to see their comeback over the last twenty years.”
For the next week or two, the Tomball nest will remain occupied and active as the eaglets fledge, a process that the Tomball community can observe from a safe distance of 200 yards. The eaglets will start by spreading their wings and leaving the nest to stand on nearby branches, before starting to make short flights. “They’re flapping their wings and developing their flight muscles, so it won’t be too long!” Moore says. Once the young eagles start flying, they’ll stay with their parents for a few more months, honing their hunting skills.
“We’ll be very sad that they’re leaving,” says Moore, but she and the community that has sprung up around these eagles hope that the pair will return to the nest next year to raise new eaglets. Doubtless, there will be a viewing party to welcome them back.