Few birds match America’s majestic bald eagle for inspiring awe. Winter is prime viewing season for these incredible raptors, which often are more visible against the backdrop of the season’s sparse landscape. Head to a national wildlife refuge to try to spot an eagle on your own or, better still, head to one of these refuges for an organized tour:
Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, in the greater Marion area
Bald Eagle Tours
January 24 and 31, 8 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
January 25 and February 1, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Take a guided van tour to see an active bald eagle nest and other eagle hangouts. Seating is limited. $5 for adults, $2.50 for youth under 12. Scout groups can take part in 8:30 a.m. tours on January 25 and February 1. Reservations are required. Call 618-997-3344 ext. 1.
Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, near Clinton
Clinton Bald Eagle Watch
January 10, 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
In winter, bald eagles – sometimes numbering in the hundreds – hunt the open water below the river's locks and dams, swooping down to catch fish. Take a free shuttle bus from Clinton Community College to Lock and Dam 13 for the January 10 event, co-sponsored by the refuge. The refuge surrounds the lock and provides excellent viewing opportunities. Aerial displays are at their peak from January through March. Call 815-273-2732 for more information.
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay
March 14, 2015
More than 200 bald eagles winter on the refuge, which supports one of the highest concentrations of eagles on the East Coast. The free festival includes kids’ activities, guest speakers and exhibits, as well as several “eagle prowls” – short bus tours to see active eagle nests. Pre-registration is not required. Call 410-228-2677.
Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge, about 100 miles north of Kansas City
Bald eagles generally hang out here all winter unless there’s a deep freeze. Spring migration brings in newcomers from February to April. A 1.5-mile hiking trail called Eagle Overlook offers eagle viewing from the wetlands.
Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge, in the eastern part of the state
January 24, 9 a.m. to noon
January 31, 9 a.m. to noon
February 7, 9 a.m. to noon
February 14, 9 a.m. to noon
February 21, 9 a.m. to noon
February 28, 9 a.m. to noon
March 7, 9 a.m. to noon
Take a free guided bus tour to see nesting bald eagles. Use spotting scopes to get an up-close view of the eagles from the warmth of the bus. Reservations are not required.
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, in the southwestern quadrant
“In Search of Eagles” Tour
January 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25, 31
February 1, 7, 8, 14,
Take a bus tour to search for bald and golden eagles. Children must be 8 or older. $5 per person. Saturday and Sunday tours depart from the visitor center at 1:30 p.m. The three-hour tour includes a bus ride and a short walk. Reserve a space for a tour. Call 580-429-2197.
Klamath Basin Refuges
Winter Wings Festival
Even if you miss the Winter Wings Festival, held each year on Presidents’ Day Weekend, you have a good chance of seeing large numbers of bald eagles around Lower Klamath and Tule Lake refuges in winter. Eagles feed on the abundant waterfowl that live in surrounding fields. Stop at the Tule Lake Visitor Center, 4009 Hill Road, Tulelake, Calif., to learn where the highest concentrations of bald eagles are.
Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge, Union City
Free Eagle Tours
Every weekday in February, 8 a.m. and noon
Take a six-person bus tour along Grassy Island Wildlife Drive to the viewing tower over Reelfoot Lake, where the abundant ducks and geese draw eagles. Get a close-up look at two active bald eagle nesting sites. Bald eagle numbers peak in February, with more than 200 wintering eagles around Reelfoot Lake. Resident eagles account for around 32 nests. Some parts of the refuge close in the winter as waterfowl sanctuary, but two refuge observation decks remain open year-round to accommodate visitors. Reservations are required. Call 731-538-2481.
Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Brigham City
Bald Eagle Day
February 14, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Join the staff and volunteers of the refuge to celebrate Bald Eagle Day. This family-fun open house event will include eagle games, crafts and movies for kids of all ages, and tours on the refuge to view these majestic birds. The refuge will also provide maps to other eagle-viewing locations around the state. Registration is not required. Call 435-723-5887 for more information.
Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge, suburban Washington, DC
The first refuge established for the protection of bald eagles, Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge is a leading place to try to spot them. The refuge lies along a section of the Potomac River that is a breeding and resting area for bald eagles. The Great Marsh Trail offers a good overlook from November through March, when eagles are building nests and laying eggs.
Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, Olympia
Dozens of bald eagles feed on waterfowl and fish where the Nisqually River meets Puget Sound. Washington is one of the largest eagle nesting sites in the country. The big birds are usually easily visible from December through March.
Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, greater Portland
Six pairs of eagles now have nests on the refuge and on adjoining lands. Migrant birds boost the eagle population to about 50 in fall and winter. The eagles feed on waterfowl and fish along the Columbia River. Look for eagles roosting in trees around the River S Unit auto tour route from December through March and sometimes beyond, depending on the Columbia salmon runs.
Facts about bald eagles: http://1.usa.gov/1yDy6Io
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