Many bald eagles have long called the Highland Lakes their winter home, spending November to April around Lake Buchanan. Some 10 years ago, a particular eagle couple came a little closer to civilization, building nests in two trees between the Llano River and Highway 29 between Llano and Burnet.
You can take a boat tour on the Vanishing Texas River Cruise to spot eagles in the wild, or you can just get in your car and head about nine miles east of Llano to commune with our nation’s emblem. Patient watchers have seen the parent eagles bringing fish from the river to the nests of young eaglets that have hatched there over the years.
A rainy day in winter is often the best time to visit the nests as the birds tend to perch in the branches to wait out the weather. The trees are only about 150 feet off the highway and there is a good area to pull off the side of the road and observe.
The bald eagle has been the national emblem since June 20, 1782. It was chosen, not only because of it’s long life, strength and good looks, but because then it was believed that it only lived on this continent.
At one time, scientists say, more than a half million bald eagles lived in the U.S. Over the years, as the birds’ habitat declined, they began to die off. Bald eagles were declared an endangered species throughout the U.S. in 1967.
That distinction ended in June 2007 when the Department of Interior delisted the majestic bird. Bald eagles are still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and are one of only a few species that has fought its way back off the endangered species list.
About half of the bald eagles alive today, around 70,000, live most of the year in Alaska. Most others live in British Columbia and the northwest coast of North America where they can find their favorite food, salmon.
Not all eagles migrate, but those that do usually leave when the water sources around them freeze over. They fly wind currents south, following lakes and rivers until they find water that doesn’t freeze in the winter. That would be the Highland Lakes, where our nation’s feathered symbol of strength and freedom has found a happy — and welcome — home.