Sitting on a rock, resting for a second underneath the West Texas sky, one thing within the distance caught Craig Hensley’s eye.

An enormous assortment of sticks piled on stone, a nest hidden within the aspect of a cliff wall towering over the sand and scrub of the Chihuahuan Desert — it was a bald eagle nest, he informed McClatchy Information, however not like several he’d ever seen.

“That nest, I imply golly … that’s the most important nest by far that I’ve ever seen in my life,” Hensley informed McClatchy Information in a cellphone interview.

Except they resolve to desert it, bald eagles will usually return to a nest yr after yr, including extra materials to it every time, making it larger.

“I might like to know what number of years that factor has been there,” he stated.

A biologist with the state Parks and Wildlife Division’s Texas Nature Trackers program, Hensley was on a employees retreat on the Devils River State Natural Area when he and fellow workforce members noticed the occupied nest, he stated.

Texas Nature Trackers shared a photo of the nest in a Dec. 13 Fb submit.

“I’m guessing a couple of folks might sit within the factor, I’ll inform you that,” Hensley.

However he wasn’t content material to easily guess at its measurement. After performing some math, utilizing the typical measurement of a bald eagle as some extent of reference, he estimates the nest “is about 15 ft throughout.”

If correct, that may make the bald eagle nest one of many largest ever recorded within the U.S.

At the moment, the document belongs to a 2-ton nest beforehand found in Florida, in keeping with the Nationwide Audubon Society, which measured 8 feet across, or 7 ft lower than the Devils River nest. Nevertheless, the Florida nest was additionally 18 ft tall.

A harsh dwelling

It isn’t simply the scale of the Devils River nest that surprises consultants.

Hensley says the bald eagle pair nesting by Devils River are unintended pioneers.

“That’s the one pair of bald eagles nesting which were documented … that far west in Texas, perhaps ever,” he stated.

The overwhelming majority of Texas’s eagle nests are within the japanese half of the state, the place water and prey are plentiful, he stated. Nonetheless, the eagles have managed to eke out an existence within the desert, probably thanks partly to the nesting close to the Devils River.

“That is actually a outstanding bald eagle nest for a few causes,” Jared Zimmerman, eagle biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, informed McClatchy Information in an e-mail.

“This actually is a big nest and doubtless fairly outdated,” he stated, including that the weird location of the nest might clarify why.

Eagles sometimes construct a nest within the bushes, he stated, however by settling down within the face of a cliff, the nest is protected against harmful components like wind and rain which could in any other case ship it tumbling to the bottom.

“Bald eagles nesting on cliffs/ledges like this isn’t tremendous frequent and speaks to how adaptable they’re and the way a lot their inhabitants is constant to extend,” Zimmerman stated.

In 1971, there have been solely five bald eagle nest sites in Texas, in keeping with state wildlife officers. Conservation efforts have helped the birds regain floor, and a 2005 survey discovered that the variety of energetic nests had grown to 160, officers stated.

The Devils River State Pure Space is about 250 miles west of Austin.

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