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We observed a breeding Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leitcocephalus) pair nesting in a short-grass prairie and agricultural community on the southern Great Plains of the Texas Panhandle in 2004 and 2005. The nesting eagles produced 1 fledgling in 2004 and 2 fledglings in 2005. Our assessment of landcover types within a 5-km radius of the nest indicated that grasslands accounted for most of the area (90%), followed by agricultural lands (8%). Black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) colonies occupied 2.5% of the area, and single human residences with associated structures (i.e., barns) occupied <1%. The nearest source of permanent surface water >2.5 ha in surface area was 51 km from the nest. An analysis of regurgitated castings collected near the nest revealed a mammalian-dominated, breeding-season diet with black-tailed prairie dogs occurring in 80.9% of the castings. Other identified prey included cottontails (Sylvilagus spp., 15.9%), black-tailed jackrabbits (Lepus californicus, 3.2%), pronghorn (Antilocapra americana, 3.2%), and plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius, 1.6%). Bird remains were also present in 34.9% of the castings. This is the first reported successful nesting of Bald Eagles in the panhandle region of Texas since 1916; the nest is particularly unique because of its distance from any substantial body of water.
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Successful nesting by a Bald Eagle pair in prairie grasslands of the Texas Panhandle