Golden Eagles are the heaviest avian predator in Texas, and all the other birds seem to know it. They have no natural predators, and are an impressive and awe-inspiring sight as they soar and command the open sky. So if you want to see an eagle, where should you look for one?
Where to See a Golden Eagle in Texas
Golden Eagles are typically found in far West Texas. The most reliable places to try for them include:
- Ranch Road 505 southwest of the Davis Mountains
- The Highway 385 prairie dog town north of Marathon
- The agriculture fields south of Dell City
September through April is the best time of year to search.
Cool, Dry, and Up High
Golden Eagles are a global species, and have been spotted all over Texas and the United States. But they strongly favor more dry, mountainous areas which are found in western states and in west Texas. Seeing them in the eastern two-thirds of the state takes some serious luck.
These eagles are migratory and spend more time in southern states (like Texas) during the cooler months of the year. Once mid to late spring hits and temperatures rise, most head for cooler, higher elevations elsewhere. They do breed in Texas, but in low numbers.
Two of the three locations involve road cruising for perched eagles on fence and telephone poles, and other is a sit and wait game at a hunting grounds.
Ranch Road 505 (and Highway 90)
Ranch Road 505 has a fence line on both sides of the road supported by old wooden posts. Because there’s not many options for perching and resting out in this desert grassland, the eagles will sometimes perch on these posts.
The nice thing about the fence posts is they’re low, right about eye level as you drive. This makes spotting birds really easy.
Also continually glance toward the fields for flying eagles. Sometimes they’ll be somewhat low to the ground as they search for prey.
The stretch of Highway 90 just south and southwest of the Davis Mountains is also good for eagles. From Valentine down to Marfa is Golden Eagle Territory, and most sightings seem be right in the middle near Quebec.
Highway 90 is lined with taller telephone poles, which raptors use as perches. Look for dark, bulky birds perched and pull over when you find one.
Note that you’ll find more hawks than eagles perched on roadside poles. Both Red-tailed Hawks and Ferruginous Hawks are regulars in the cooler months and Swainson’s Hawk in warm months. All are large, and can be dark in color like an eagle, so get a good look before making your ID.
As a general rule of thumb, large raptors will tolerate stopped vehicles that are at least two power line poles away. Any closer and you may scare them off, and lose your chance to get a good look at these awesome birds.
If you can’t stop your vehicle quickly enough, it’s better to intentionally overshoot and then pull over. If you pull over right next to a hawk or eagle it will definitely fly off before you can even open your door or lean out your window to see it.
Marathon Prairie Dog Town
Exact Location on Highway 385:
This location is the “sit and wait” option of the list. Rather than driving for perched eagles on poles, this is the best place to see soaring eagles in flight. Most people visit this spot on their way to or from Big Bend National Park.
Follow Highway 385 north of Marathon and you’ll find yourself in an expansive open grassland. At a historical marker with a pull-off on either side of the pavement is where a prairie dog colony has taken up residence. You can see all the bare dirt that they have cleared of vegetation, as well as the surface burrow holes if you look closely enough.
This prairie dog town probably hosts several thousand prairie dogs across it’s wide stretch, and the local raptors have taken notice. Golden Eagles, along with hawks and falcons, will sometimes hunt here and try for an easy meal.
Birders that know of this spot will drive out to the pull-off, set up a lawn chair on the roadside median, and post up for an hour or more to see what flies by. Sometimes the eagles are flying out on the horizon, and sometimes you’ll get lucky with a direct overhead flyover.
If any raptor makes a prairie dog kill nearby, this quickly attracts more raptors. So if you see a hawk eating on the ground, just wait. An eagle is almost sure to show up to investigate soon.
Located just south of the New Mexico state line, the agricultural fields around Dell City provide a bit more green and moisture than most desert areas offer. This attracts birds and wildlife of all kinds, which in turn attracts predators.
The strategy here is simple: drive up and down Ranch Road 1437 and look for large, dark birds perched on power line poles. Other nearby roads that run parallel can also be good, namely Ranch Road 1576, about 2.5 miles to the east.
Taking one to two hours to drive and search these roads, especially during morning hours, has a good chance of yielding a Golden Eagle. You’ll see plenty of hawks as well.
Where Else Can I Find A Golden Eagle?
National Parks? Maybe.
Golden Eagles can theoretically be seen anywhere in West Texas. There have been plenty of sightings in both Big Bend National Park and Guadalupe Mountains National Park, but frequency isn’t high. So even if you spend two days at either of these parks you may not see one.
They’re not bad places to search, but not nearly as good as the three recommended locations above.
State Parks? Probably Not.
The Davis Mountains State Park occasionally gets reports of Golden Eagles, but not every year. Keep an eye out for them if you’re already here, but don’t go out of your way to visit just to try for an eagle.
Both Big Bend State Park and Hueco Tanks State Park have records of Golden Eagles in recent years, but they get so few visitors each year it’s just hard to tell. Even if eagles were numerous, there’s not enough people around to find and see them. But based on low sightings, and on the habitat, it’s safe to assume neither park is great for eagles.
The Davis Mountains Preserve? Yes, if you can get in.
The Nature Conservancy owns a large property at the highest peak of the Davis Mountains. This is a great spot for many west Texas bird species, including Golden Eagle. But here’s the catch – they only open the property to the public a few days and weekends each year.
Check their events page to view upcoming open days and weekends.