Experts say time is running out for White Rock Lake vultures to get eggs

While the pair of bald eagles that has captured the hearts of many in North Texas may still be near White Rock Lake in Dallas, wildlife experts say there may not be enough time for the birds to lay eggs this season.

But these experts say this is out of the question.

“They can get eggs in March and April. It’s a bit late for them,” said Sam Kishnik, an urban wildlife biologist with the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife.

Cooler, wetter weather over the next few months should improve the odds of conceiving vultures this year, Kishnik said.

An empty Eagle’s Nest remains a tree in Lake Highlands Park on Monday, March 14, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Shafkat Anwar / Staff Photographer)

The incubation period for bald eagle eggs is usually 34-36 days, according to TPWD. It takes about 11-12 weeks before the young eagles can fly out of the nest, and the adults continue to feed their young for four to six weeks while they are taught to hunt.

Many bald eagles migrate north of Texas and usually return by September of October, according to TPWD.

Kishnik said he believes that even if the vultures do not have offspring this year, they will return next year and nest in the same area.

“This is a lifelong breeding pair, so they will come back, which is a good thing,” he said.

North Texas bald eagles, such as those that nest near Lake Louisville year-round, do not always migrate north, even during late spring and summer.

A pair of bald eagles sit in a hawk's nest in White Rock Lake on Wednesday, February 16, 2022, in...

If the couple stay near White Rock Lake in their current location, Kishnick said the area would remain federally protected and that he would recommend fencing and barriers around the area in place.

“As long as this nest is viable, as long as vultures are seen around this nest, it is a protected place and site, so we advise that fences remain everywhere to prevent any kind of potential inconvenience,” he said.

Puttaswamy Ravishankar, a resident of Arlington, is a nature photography enthusiast and has been visiting Lake Highlands Park since late last year. He donates some of his work to organizations that want to spread knowledge and awareness of nature.

Ravishankar said he had heard from other pilots who were visiting the area that some people had bypassed the metal fence that was put in place last month. He also heard that someone had flown a drone near the area.

He said he believed the fencing should remain, and added that he believed the vultures needed more time and space to strengthen their new nest.

“Appreciating nature is always a good thing,” he said, “but you don’t want to go overboard.”

A banner is seen on display through a section of the fence installed to keep the eagle in...
A banner is seen on display through a section of the fence installed to conserve Eagle at Lake Highlands Park on Monday, March 14, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Shafkat Anwar / Staff Photographer)

Anna MacFarland, who lives near the park where vultures nest, watches and notes the activities of the birds daily. Although she has seen birds and visitors still driving in the area, she said she hasn’t seen the couple fly near the nest since last Tuesday.

MacFarland said she supported protecting the vultures but wasn’t sure about keeping the fencing in place year-round.

“It is indeed an active park; “There are groups that use the square every weekend,” she said. “I am with it all to protect the eagles.”

Allen Gwen, a resident of Lake Heights, said he is a nature lover. Gwen said he doesn’t care about the park’s benefit as much as he’s concerned about whether the city’s work to protect the eagle’s nest is really good for the birds.

“I would like to be able to sit there and see a group of vultures nesting, but are we changing what vultures naturally expect from their natural habitat? Are we making it deceptively safe for vultures?” he asked. “At the end of the day, I just want to make sure we’re doing the right thing for the right reasons.”

Brett Johnson, a Dallas-based urban biologist, said eagles have been seen less frequently in the Lake Highlands Park area where they have been spotted nesting.

Caleb Dyson (left) excitedly points out that an eagle is landing on his nest to injure his classmate...

“They might not be seen for a few days, then at a certain time of the day they reappear in a different part of White Rock,” he said.

Johnson said city officials had no estimate of when they would bring down the existing fence, and had not discussed how they would respond if bald eagles nested in the park year-round.

He said the parks and city wildlife office are working with state and federal biologists to plan their next steps.

“We’ve kind of given up trying to guess what these vultures are going to do,” Johnson said. “I wish we could give a good answer, but they kind of defied the normal logic in a lot of this, so we’re just following along.”

Correction on 10 p.m. March 16, 2022: An earlier version of this story misspelled the city’s urban biologist. The correct name is Brett Johnson.

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