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Photographer discovers uncommon Coastal Bend bird sightings

Eagle sightings in South Texas
Unidentified Eagle in the Coastal Bend
Posted at 6:30 AM, Jan 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-14 07:30:41-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — An expert at the Texas State Aquarium say it's locally uncommon to see eagles in Corpus Christi. But one wildlife photographer and film maker has been observing his newly named friend Joseph for the past few days now.

Early in the mornings, with his camera in hand Jay Smith takes a walk to the tracks nearby.

"As I was coming around the corner here, I looked over at that pole where we just looked and I saw something doesn’t look right, one of these things doesn’t belong here," said Smith, a wildlife photographer and filmmaker.

A whistle, that's how he greets his bird friend he named Joseph. Smith says he noticed something different about this bird.

Coming from Iowa, Smith is visiting friends in the Coastal Bend taking pictures along the way.

“I’m believing its a bald eagle, or a golden eagle and this is where the two of those can be mixed up,” Smith said.

Curator of birds and mammals at Texas State Aquarium James McKinney says the bald eagle is a type of sea eagle. And the golden eagle found in the Northern Hemisphere are uncommon to this area due to habitat and diet.

“We have plenty of water here but they also prefer really tall trees for roosting and spotting their prey," McKinney said. "So that's something that we don’t have here."

I Naturalist.org shows how few sightings there are in the Coastal Bend. In March 2019, a bald eagle sighting was reported near Goliad, just north of Corpus Christi.

There has been at least one sighting of a golden eagle in Calallen in 2018.

“You have to look at wing structure, you have to look at color tones in the feathers, you have to look at the beak and the head and the style of that,” explained Smith.

Observing eagles for more than 10 years, Smith says he has taken thousands of pictures and videos and all he had to do was look up.

“What you have here for for an environmental area is very, very friendly,” he said.

Smith adds its difficult to identify exactly what breed this particular bird is because it does not have adult plumage yet.