Winter Is the Best Time To Spot Bald Eagles. Here's Where To Look in Each State

Eagle and Flowers


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Eagle and Flowers

Flying High

The bald eagle is the comeback kid of the conservation world, soaring back in numbers after spending decades in danger of extinction. “Bald eagles are powerful symbols of resilience,” says Crystal Slusher with the American Eagle Foundation. “Seeing one or many in the wild can serve as a reminder to keep our resilience in caring for our environment and the creatures we share it with.” Because of migration patterns, winter is the best time to look for bald eagles. Here are some of the best locations to try your luck in every state, except Hawaii, (where there are no bald eagles around to crash the luaus).


Related: Incredible Photos of Wild Animals Across America

Aggressive Bald Eagles on Sauvie Island, Oregon
Florence and Joseph McGinn/istockphoto

Alabama: Pickwick Lake

According to the state’s department of conservation, if you’re looking for bald eagles in Alabama, this lake near Waterloo is one of your best bets. (Where there are fish, there are eagles. Though, their diet can include other things.) Another good spot? Lake Guntersville State Park, which hosts seasonal Eagle Awareness weekends. Though winter is the prime time to spot plentiful migrating eagles, the area’s permanent nesting pairs sometimes make themselves visible in the summer. “What I find the most fascinating about bald eagles is how complex they can be,” Slusher says. “They will congregate with other bald eagles at feeding grounds and in roosting areas. But during nesting season they will defend their territory and nest, with very little tolerance for other eagles.”

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The Last True Frontier

Alaska: Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve

If you want to hit the bald eagle mother lode, “North to Alaska” is the tune you should be singing, (along with the eagle’s distinctive call). It’s estimated that the bald eagle population in Alaska totals 30,000, a tally that blows away every other state. Good viewing locations abound, but the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, established in 1982, with more than 80 nests, is tough to top. You can see the eagles from designated parking areas or a 2-mile walking trail. (It’s important to keep a proper distance from the birds and their nests, following eagle etiquette, to keep the species thriving.)  

Related: 21 Places to Safely See Wild Animals Up Close 

Bald eagle on a branch in the desert between Reno and Carson City, Nevada

Arizona: Snowflake

It takes luck to find a bald eagle in the summer in Arizona. The eBird species map shows relatively few sightings in warmer months. (eBird is the preeminent birdwatching data site, managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Create an account and explore its data.) EBird observers did have some summer success (as many as three sightings on one day in June) near the town of Snowflake. Still, it’s easier to look for eagles when snow might be falling in Snowflake: October through March. Two hotspots during prime viewing season are Upper Lake Mary and Mormon Lake. 

Eagle with snow covered branches

Arkansas: Lake Dardanelle

Catching birds wintering in Arkansas is the strategy to take if you want to increase your odds of seeing a bald eagle in the state. Many state parks offer eagle tours in winter, but lone birdwatchers are occasionally fortunate enough to see a bald eagle in the area during the off-season as well.

A group of bald eagles fly in the blue sky
Sen Yang/istockphoto

California: Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge

Every winter, birdwatchers flock to the Klamath Basin on the California-Oregon border to witness the most spectacular concentration of bald eagles in the country, outside of Alaska. Since they are present in 41 of its 58 counties, spotting an eagle any time of year in California is possible. The reservoirs of Plumas County nurture a particularly large population of bald eagles. Lake Almanor, the county’s largest reservoir, is an outstanding example.   

A bald eagle flies in front of Denver skyline
Jeff Edwards/istockphoto

Colorado: Barr Lake

One perfect winter day, excited raptor enthusiasts spotted more than 100 bald eagles in five minutes at this bird-watching paradise a short drive from Denver. Migrating eagles get the credit for the impressive tally. Summer at Barr Lake is all about trying to spot a beloved local duo of eagles. There’s an 8.8-mile hiking trail around the lake, so you can keep your heart rate up while keeping your binoculars at the ready.

Photographers at Conowingo Dam for annual eagle migration

Connecticut: Eagle Landing State Park

Prime eagle-viewing season in Connecticut is late December to early March. You can relax by the Connecticut River at Eagle Landing State Park and wait patiently for a sighting. There’s also a reservations-required viewing area in Southbury at the Shepaug Dam Bald Eagle Observation Center

Bald Eagle Nest

Delaware: Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge

Nesting bald eagles call this wildlife refuge in Kent County home. An auto tour offered by the park can take you to their main stomping grounds — er, wing-flapping grounds — the Shearness Pool. Regardless of whether you spot an eagle, there’s much to dazzle nature lovers at Bombay Hook, all year round.

Bald Eagles and many bird varieties on lake
John Morrison/istockphoto

Florida: Prairie Lakes or Chassahowitzka Wildlife Refuge

The Sunshine State is a bright destination for bald eagle fans. It’s home to an estimated 1,500 nesting pairs. Southeast of Orlando, the Prairie Lakes Unit of the Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area features as many as 150 nests, making it an prime location for eagle-spotting, year round. Then there’s the glorious Chassahowitzka Wildlife Refuge. Accessible only by boat, it’s located 65 miles north of St. Petersburg, (incidentally where the largest eagle’s nest on record once existed). You can rent a boat or join a tour for an idyllic eagle-sighting experience. Keep your eyes peeled for otters and manatees, too.

Bald Eagle and its nest in Kukak Bay, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, Katmai National Park, Alaska. With a young chick in the nest.
Gerald Corsi/istockphoto

Georgia: West Point Lake

This 26,000-acre reservoir is a bird-watchers paradise. The national bird is frequently spotted here, particularly during the spring. And for an intimate view into the life of the most famous Georgian bald eagle family, check out the Berry College nest cam.

Bald Eagle on Ice Floats - Alaska
Bald Eagles Pair in the Nest

Illinois: Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge

In the southern part of the state, this public nature sanctuary is an ideal location to see nesting bald eagles, most easily in the fall and winter. Six nesting pairs call the refuge home and are often visible from public roads. Wintering eagles add to the eagle excitement. If you can’t make it in person, there’s this virtual eagle tour.  

Young Eagle Chick in Nest

Indiana: Lake Monroe

In the 1980s, as part of the state’s bald eagle reintroduction program, 73 eaglets were relocated to Lake Monroe from Alaska and Wisconsin, and today the eagle population in the region is booming. The state is home to more than 300 eagle nests, and many can be found at Lake Monroe, about 10 miles southeast of Bloomington, which hosts an annual self-guided tour each January.  

Bald Eagle in Flight with Fish

Iowa: Upper Mississippi River

The mighty Mississippi is an irresistible route for migrating birds, including bald eagles. In Iowa, a section along the Illinois border is a favorite viewing spot for eagle enthusiasts. On the opposite side of the state, along the Nebraska border is the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, bald eagles can be seen plucking fish out of DeSoto Lake and the Missouri River, most commonly in December or February. 

Bald eagles, one flying, others sitting

Kansas: Clinton Lake, Near Lawrence

The site of the first successful new bald eagle nest in the state since the turn of the 20th century, (discovered in 1989), Clinton Lake has grown into a happy home for nesting eagles. The best time to visit the lake, located about 25 miles east of Topeka, is December-February. The Chaplin Nature Center, run by the Wichita Audubon Society, is another good place to try to spot an eagle.   

Adult Bald Eagle with two chicks in a nest in a tree on the side of a cliff Vancouver Island Canada
Frank Fichtmüller/istockphoto

Kentucky: Ballard Wildlife Management Area

At least three nesting pairs of bald eagles call this protected area home, so it’s possible to spot the regal birds throughout the year. Driving around th public viewing loop provides a good chance to scan the sky and trees for eagles as you go. Just be sure to keep one eye on the road.

Bald eagle flying over Mississippi River Le Claire, IA

Louisiana: Bonnet Carré Spillway

The Bonnet Carré Spillway, located in St. Charles Parish near New Orleans, was built for Mississippi River flood control, but is beloved by bald eagles, which tend to stand out in the cityscape. North Toledo Bend State Park and South Toledo Bend State Park are other prime destinations in the Pelican State for those who prefer eagles to pelicans.

Bald Eagle in flight in Nebraska
John Morrison/istockphoto
Bald Eagle flying over river near dam

Maryland: Conowingo Dam

You don’t need an eagle's eye to spot a bald eagle at Conowingo Dam in the northeast corner of the state. It’s one of the country’s most well-known eagle hotspots. And though October-January are the best months, bald eagles are plentiful all year long, thanks to 75-100 eagles who have nests within easy commuting distance. The dam serves up a veritable seafood buffet for the eagles: fish that are left stunned or dead from their journey through the dam.

Eagle enjoying an afternoon snack at tree nest

Massachusetts: Connecticut River and Quabbin Reservoir

A successful eagle restoration project in the Commonwealth brought eagles back with gusto to this New England state. Nests, and thus eagles, are common along the Connecticut River and the southern end of the Quabbin Reservoir. In all, it’s estimated there are 80 nests in the state. And good news about a burgeoning population continues to grow, including word in 2020 of the first documented eaglet born in Cape Cod in 115 years.

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) Head Shot - Looking Straight On

Michigan: Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge

Bald eagles have built nests in 81 of Michigan’s 83 counties, so there are plenty of potential sighting opportunities. EBird observers report seeing relatively large numbers of bald eagles in this national wildlife refuge southwest of Saginaw, even in summer months. And should you strike out trying to catch a glimpse of these majestic birds in the wild, the Saginaw Chidlren's Zoo is home to two bald eagles: Aerie and Marahoute.

The head of a bald eagle

Minnesota: Upper Mississippi River Valley

Minnesota is home to the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, where you can learn all about the ecology, biology, and history of this remarkable national bird. It even has some eagle "ambassadors" you can see up close. The center sits in the Upper Mississippi River valley, which boasts many resident bald eagles and welcomes hundreds more in the winter. 

Bald Eagle Flying

Mississippi: Northern Lakes

Fifty bald eagles were counted in January 2021 around four lakes near Oxford: Arkabutla, Sardis, Enid, and Grenada. You need a keen eye to spot bald eagles in the summer, however, as sightings are relatively rare during warmer months. 

Bald Eagle mates perching close during mating
John Morrison/istockphoto

Missouri: Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge

About 100 miles north of Kansas City, Loess Bluffs is a key hangout for wintering eagles, about 300 at peak migration in early December. There are permanent eagle residents here, as well. As you might guess, Eagle Pool (near the welcome center), is one of the top places to see them. 

Bald Eagle perched on a branch in Yellowstone
John Morrison/istockphoto

Montana: Missoula

Conservation efforts have driven the estimated number of nesting bald eagles in Montana up to as many as 700 breeding pairs. The majority of nests are located along the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers and in the western part of the state. EBird observations show the Missoula area as being particularly auspicious for eagle sightings, year-round.  

Bald Eagle flying in winter migration
John Morrison/istockphoto

Nebraska: North Platte National Wildlife Refuge

The North Platte National Wildlife Refuge has played a big role in the eagle recovery efforts in the state. In 1993 it became home to one of the first successful bald eagle nests in the state in more than 100 years. That very nest is still going strong, producing two to three eaglets annually, making the protected area a prime place to try to spot eagles, all year. Numbers peak in November and December, when migrant eagles join the local crew. Other eagle-friendly places to check out: in Nebraska the state’s largest reservoir, Lake McConaughy, and Row Sanctuary on the Platte River. 

Juvenile Sea Eagle in Hokkaido Japan

Nevada: Carson Valley

One of the least appealing aspects of bald eagles is that they are scavengers that take every opportunity for easy food. “They steal, and eat trash,” says Cornell University ornithologist Kevin McGowan. Case in point, when the birthing season gets underway at local ranches, bald eagles descend upon Carson Valley, 50 miles south of Reno, to feast on cow placentas, a habit that birdwatchers appreciate more than the cattle do and happens consistently from December to February.  

Bald Eagle Sitting on Logs in a Harbor

New Hampshire: Lakes Region

Conservationists rejoiced in 2020 when a survey of bald eagles in the state on a special count day in January topped 100 for the first time. The largest number was seen in the Lakes Region, south of the White Mountains, which includes Lake Winnipesaukee, Lake Winnisquam, Squam Lake, and Newfound Lake. EBird reports show Squam Lake as the best bet in the area for coming across a resident eagle in the summer.

Eagle Glides Above Autumn Treetops

New Jersey: Delaware Bay

There are bald eagle nests in all 21 New Jersey counties. Scope out the shores of the Delaware Bay in Salem and Cumberland counties for the best chance of spying an eagle. Or for the ultimate patriotic experience, head to Liberty State Park, across from Liberty Island (home of the Statue of Liberty), where astute observers have been known to spot one of the national birds.

Bald eagle on ice flow in Mississippi River

New Mexico: Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Preserve

On the Rio Grande in the middle of the state, Bosque Del Apache — Spanish for "forest of the Apache" — plays host to wintering bald eagles, November through March. You can also find eagles in the winter at the state's reservoirs, including Conchas and Elephant Butte. The aptly named Eagle Nest Lake in Colfax County is a good spot to try to see bald eagles any time of the year, as well as 169 other bird species.

Bald Convention

New York: Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge and Onondaga Lake

In 1980, there was just one pair of breeding eagles in New York state. Now there are about 400. “It was just a phenomenal recovery,” says McGowan, the Cornell University ornithologist. “Bald eagles are a success story.” Believe it or not, bald eagles occasionally play tourist in the Big Apple. (Check out this incredible moment in Riverside Park.) But if you want to get serious about finding one, head upstate. McGowan says Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in the Finger Lakes region is a superb place to spot eagles. And Onondaga Lake near Syracuse is home to the state’s largest winter roost. At times it looks like a bald eagle convention at the southern side of this once-polluted-but-now-thriving body of water.  

Bald eagle flying over icy waters
moose henderson/istockphoto

North Carolina: Jordan Lake

There are at least 16 bald eagle nests on this reservoir near Raleigh. The recreation area at the Jordan Dam provides a good vantage point from which to, perchance, experience the wonder of one of these magnificent raptors flying overhead. “Almost everyone is impressed as hell when they see one,” says McGowan, who marvels at the birds’ immense wingspan of up to 7½ feet, comparing the sight to a “flying door.”

Bald Eagle mates kissing, or pecking closely for several minutes.
John Morrison/istockphoto

North Dakota: Lake Sakakawea

This reservoir in the Upper Missouri River Basin is a happy habitat for bald eagles. The best place to find them is near the dam that formed the lake, Garrison Dam. Lake Sakakawea is named for the most famous indigenous woman in U.S. history, alternatively (and, some say, incorrectly) spelled Sacagawea. As you consider the area's deep history, take a moment to remember that the bald eagle’s symbolism pre-dates the birth of the nation. “Most all indigenous peoples attach special significance to the eagle and its feathers,” says Slusher of the American Eagle Foundation.

Eagle Feeding Chicks in Nest

Ohio: Lake Erie

Ohio has seen a surge in the number of bald eagles recently. A 2020 census indicated a 150% increase in nests from 2012, when the last census was conducted. The population had more than doubled during the eight years between counts and risen to more than 700 nesting pairs. Lake Erie is a major hotspot. Key areas around the lake include Huron Lighthouse.

Bald Eagle, haliaeetus leucocephalus, Bird on Tree covered by Snow, Haines in Alaska

Oklahoma: Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge

This 20,800-acre sanctuary in the eastern part of the state is home to several bald eagle nests. In the winter, Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge hosts some of the largest groups of migrating eagles around, and there are guided tours to take the guesswork out of hitting the eagle jackpot. To prepare before your visit, check out the refuge’s eagle nest webcam

Soon eagle

Oregon: Klamath Lake

Winter is prime time to catch an influx of visiting emblematic raptors. But plentiful nesting eagles, as many as 400 pairs, make it plausible to spot a bald eagle most times of the year in the Klamath Basin on the California border, one of the country’s top eagle-viewing meccas. Look for eagles in the spring and summer on the west side of Klamath Lake. Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge is another key location for warmer-weather eagle watching. The Columbia River south of Portland is also a favorite destination for hopeful eagle watchers. 

Immature bald eagle perched above the Firehole River.

Pennsylvania: Susquehanna River

The Keystone State gives bald eagle watchers a chance to spot the ultimate BOP (bird of prey) any time of year. All along the Susquehanna River, looking skyward could pay off. The distinctive markings of the bald eagle make it easy to identify, but keep in mind that they don’t develop a white-feathered head and neck until they’re about 5 years old. Young bald eagles go through several stages before achieving the characteristic look.

Bald eagle in a California nest

Rhode Island: Swan Point Cemetery

The country’s smallest state only has a few confirmed bald eagle nests. This 200-acre historic final resting place in Providence is a reliable location to spot bald eagles because of its proximity to the Seekonk River. (And what better place than a cemetery to contemplate how the bald eagle was, at one point, almost as dead as a dodo, but is now flourishing?) Blackstone Park, also in Providence, is another prime place to look. 

many Bald Eagles perched on tree branches at sunset, Delta, BC, Canada

South Carolina: Lake Marion

The Palmetto State has a robust bald eagle population of about 400 nesting pairs. The resident raptors are predictably clustered on the coast and near big lakes, notably the largest, Lake Marion in the center of the state, known to have 30 nests. The Bluff Unit and Dingle Pond Unit of the Santee National Wildlife Refuge are two birder-approved viewing spots.

Wild Bald Eagle in the Mangrove Coast of the Atlantic Ocean at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge Florida

South Dakota: Below Missouri River Dams

Bald eagles can be found in South Dakota all year, below the dams of the Missouri River, such as the Fort Randall Dam in Pinkstown. Massive cottonwood trees make for sturdy support for the eagles’ enormous nests. Karl E. Mundt National Wildlife Refuge in Gregory County is another spot that eagle watchers recommend.

Bald eagle fight snow

Tennessee: Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge

Bald eagle numbers peak at the Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge in February, when more than 200 wintering eagles descend upon in the northwest corner of the state, which already has more than 30 nests. Detailed self-guided tour information and/or guided bus tours could greatly increase your chances of eagle-sighting success.

American Bald Eagle
Artistic Operations/istockphoto

Texas: Houston Area

You might find a lone bald eagle in the Lone Star State in the summer, if you look hard, but sightings in winter are more common. Prime places include coastal areas from Rockport up to Houston, which some say is the absolute best. Within the city limits, you can watch for eagles in Hermann Park. Or if you prefer a dose of Texas history with your eagle experience, head 25 miles east to the San Jacinto Battleground Site.  

Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus;  sitting on a tree, Winter in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.
Gerald Corsi /istockphoto

Utah: Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

There aren’t many bald eagle nests in the Beehive State, so spotting an eagle can sometimes prove difficult, unless you have an eye to the winter sky. Wintering bald eagles, apparently, know how to follow signs to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, and manage to find their way to many other sources of open water, ample fish, and tall trees. Utahns are so proud of their large, transient eagle population that they’ve dubbed February “Bald Eagle Month” and host special events.  

Bald Eagle perched above river
John Morrison/istockphoto

Vermont: Lake Champlain

Vermont lagged behind other states in seeing bald eagles return with gusto. Twenty years ago, there were no known nesting pairs, and today there are 40. The birds can often be spotted near Lake Champlain on the New York border. The outflow overlook at Wilder Dam in Hartford is another highly recommended eagle-watching locale.  

Eagle Feeding 2 Chicks - 5 Weeks Old

Virginia: Chesapeake Bay Area

As shown on this Center for Conservation Biology map, bald eagle nests are clustered along the tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. Birdwatchers tend to have success spotting eagles from Caledon State Park on the Potomac River and the Cumberland Marsh Natural Area Preserve on the Pamunkey. Just north of Virginia, in the nation’s capital, keep an eye out for a special feathered couple in the National Arboretum, Mr. President and The First Lady. (Or you can see what they’re up to via their nest cam.) “It’s amazing how both parents contribute to fortifying the nest and caring for their young,” says Slusher of the American Eagle Foundation. “From the moment their season begins, the nest and eggs become a priority for the pair and that continues until the young have set out on their own.”

A flock of bald eagles in trees.

Washington: Upper Skagit River

Northwest Washington is a hot destination for bald eagle fans. During peak migration season, some visitors to Howard Miller Steelhead Park have reported seeing more than 50 eagles in one day. For those hoping to do more than just stare in awe at the eagles, you can delve deeper with help from the Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center, which hosts guided hiking tours and speaking events in January and February.  

Adult bald eagle perched on tree branch in Wisconsin

West Virginia: New River Gorge National Park and Reserve

New River Gorge National Park and Reserve is home to three bald eagle nests, including one on Brooks Island, with a dramatic history. To check out the eagles there, visit the scenic overlook a little up the road from the town of Brooks. Or, if you’re an eagle watcher who’s also a train lover, take a ride through the South Branch Valley on the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad. Trips depart from the Wappocomo Station in Romney.

Bald eagle fishing
Harry Collins/istockphoto

Wisconsin: Prairie du Chien and the Fox River

The Badger better watch its back. Wisconsinites might be tempted to change the state’s nickname to the Bald Eagle State, because there are now a whopping 1,500 active nests within its borders. There are nine on this bald eagle viewing map of Prairie du Chien, with designated viewing spots indicated also. Along the Fox River, there are more than a dozen tried-and-true eagle watching locations. And with nests in 71 of the state’s 72 counties, plus a dependable surge of wintering birds, there are abundant opportunities to see an eagle in Wisconsin, as long as you stay alert. 

Bald Eagle Sitting on Bank of Yellowstone River, Yellowstone National Park
T Schofield/istockphoto

Wyoming: Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Yellowstone has several resident bald eagles. The best places to look for them are in the sky above (and trees around) Yellowstone Lake and Yellowstone River. A gloriously picturesque spot in Grand Teton for eagle watching is the Oxbow Bend Turnout. But don’t get too starstruck admiring the graceful flight of America’s national bird. You might miss a moose.

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