There Are Bald Eagles in Houston?

As crazy as it may sound, the majestic bird of prey is fairly common in these parts.

By Jeff Balke January 14, 2017

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Image: Katya Horner

A debate erupted recently in the Oak Forest/Garden Oaks section of the popular neighborhood social network Nextdoor. A resident spotted and photographed an osprey on top of a pole in a baseball field. The migratory hawk was no doubt looking for dinner, and large raptors are a common sight throughout Houston. But as the conversation continued, one resident claimed to have seen a pair of bald eagles soaring over White Oak Bayou recently. Some respondents were skeptical, as were we, so we decided to investigate.

“Thirty years ago, that would have been crazy talk,” Richard Gibbons, conservation director for the Audubon Society, told us. But today, he said, “We have several [bald eagle] nests in the area, and they have a large territory.”

We were shocked. A quick search online found reports of bald eagles everywhere from Hermann Park to The Woodlands, where a nesting pair even have their own Facebook page dedicated to protecting them.

Gibbons says that it’s more common to see bald eagles here in winter, when migratory members of the species join the southern bald eagles who live here year round. The birds were on the verge of extinction in the 1970s; after being placed on the endangered species list in 1978, their numbers have consistently grown across the country.

But where can we find them, exactly? Gibbons said eagles love fish, so they are most frequently sighted near bodies of water. With all the bayous crisscrossing the city, plus so many water retention areas, it’s no wonder they like it here.

“There are places in town where, if you sat outside every day for a week and looked up, you’d be hard-pressed not to see one,” Gibbons said.

We’ll be sure to keep our eyes skyward.

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