Want to see a bald eagle?

Today you’re hearing from Sarah Nystrom, the eagle coordinator for our region.

While many people think fall and spring migration or summer nesting season is prime time to spot this iconic bird, I suggest heading out now in search of this amazing experience.

Bald eagles, with their distinctive white head and dark body, can be easier to see in winter. Other birds can be harder to identify in their drab plumage.

Not to mention, it’s National Bald Eagle Watch Month!

During the winter months, bald eagles tend to gather in areas that have a good food supply. A hungry eagle will eat just about anything that they can get their talons on. Fish are the majority of their diet when there is open water, but they will also prey on ducks and geese. Carrion, including deer carcasses, can be easier to find in the winter. Bald eagles may fly dozens of miles from one food source to another in winter, so a consistent source of food can be very important.

Bald eagle holding a fish in its talons at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia. Credit: Ron Holmes/USFWS.

Bald eagle holding a fish in its talons at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia. Credit: Ron Holmes/USFWS.

In the Northeast, there are a few places that would be well worth a winter trip:

  • Bald eagle sightings are increasing in Massachusetts. Once very rare, populations have increased to 38 nesting pairs. The Quabbin Reservoir supports a healthy population of wintering eagles, which can be seen from the Enfield Lookout. Check at the visitor’s center, located at the southern end of the Quabbin off Route 9, for more information.
  • The Merrimack River Eagle Festival is coming up! Staff and volunteers will be available to help you spot eagles and answer questions on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Joppa Flats Education Center and the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Newburyport, Mass. Only in the winter do bald eagles migrate to the lower Merrimack River, where the water stays open for the birds to fish.
  • The Delaware River provides opportunities to see congregations of wintering bald eagles. You won’t even have to go far from many urban areas in the Northeast if you’rein New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Find specific eagle viewing locations in this area.
  • The eastern shore of Maryland is a great spot to see abundant bald eagles throughout the year. Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge hosts the greatest nesting density of breeding bald eagles on the East Coast, north of Florida. Wintering eagles are drawn to the refuge by the abundance of migratory geese and ducks. You may even get a rare glimpse of a golden eagle, which are sometimes sighted on the refuge. The refuge is hosting their 13th Annual Eagle Festival on March 9, 2013 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Join refuge staff for free programs celebrating birds of prey. Call 410-901-6124 for more information or email ray_paterra@fws.gov.
Bald eagle at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia. Credit: Susan Rachlin/USFWS.

Bald eagle at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia. Credit: Susan Rachlin/USFWS.

Whenever you head out to look for eagles or other wildlife, keep in mind that human presence can be stressful to wildlife. To avoid being disruptive and get better eagle sightings:

  • Stay in or near your vehicle at roadside viewing areas.
  • Stay more than 330 feet from eagles.
  • Move quickly and quietly to observation blinds and try to stay hidden from the bird’s view.
  • Avoid making loud noises, such as yelling, slamming car doors and honking horns.
  • Use binoculars or a spotting scope to view the birds from a comfortable distance
  • Never attempt to make an eagle fly.
  • For your safety, always pull completely off the road and park in designated areas.
  • Never stop in the middle if the road if access to the road shoulder is blocked by snow and ice.
  • Also be prepared for snow, ice, and mud. Dress for cold weather, with waterproof footwear, hats, gloves and plenty of layers in case conditions change.

Now, will you put “Seek out a bald eagle sighting” on your 2013 bucket list?

5 Comments on “Want to see a bald eagle?

  1. You should include the Hudson River Valley from Westchester to Ductchess counties.
    And also Sullivan Co. NY

  2. Pingback: Record number of eagles at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region

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