Bald eagles are all-American birds. They range across all 48 of the continental United States plus Alaska.
They fish in lakes and rivers across most of Canada in the summer. They are winter residents of northern Mexico.
Where Do Bald Eagles Live?
Intrepid birdwatchers can sight bald eagles every month of the year in parts of Alaska, along the lower Mississippi River, and on the East, West, and Gulf coasts of the United States.
Bald eagles eat a variety of prey, but specialize in fish. That’s the reason that they love lakes; the bigger, the better.
You can see bald eagles in the summer soaring above lakes and in trees on their shore lines, although some bald eagles prefer easy pickings from shallow-water rivers and streams.
Bald eagles that spend their summers in Canada and the northern United States fly south before their hunting grounds are frozen over, flying from lake to lake to catch more fish on the way.
Some Tips on Finding Bald Eagles
Even though bald eagles range across most of North America, it can be very easy for you to see one if you just know where to look.
And the easiest way you can find out where to look is through your local news.
Bald eagle nests that are easily visible from roads and trails make local news reports. You can often learn about bald eagle nests from local newscasts.
Or you can go out looking for bald eagles with other experienced birdwatchers.
The National Audubon Society has chapters in 450 US cities. These chapters offer meetings, trips, and other ways to get involved in birdwatching.
The American Birding Association offers local and national bird-watching expeditions.
You can also get involved in volunteer organizations that protect birds and other wildlife, including The Christmas Bird Count, eBirds, and Celebrate Big Birds.
How to Go Birdwatching for a Bald Eagle
Once you know the general area in which to look, you can make preparations for your birdwatching trip.
To go birdwatching for a bald eagle, you will need a few basic items:
- Binoculars: These will allow you to see the eagle up close, even if it is far away.
- A field guide: A field guide can help you identify the different species of birds you see, including the bald eagle.
- A birding journal: A birding journal is a great way to keep track of the different birds you see and where you saw them.
- A camera: A camera will allow you to take pictures of the bald eagle, which can be helpful for identification purposes or for personal enjoyment.
- Appropriate clothing: Depending on where you are birdwatching, you may need to dress in layers to stay warm or wear sunscreen and a hat to protect yourself from the sun.
- A birding app: There are many birding apps available that can help you identify the birds you see and provide information about their behavior and habitat.
- Patience: Bald eagles can be difficult to spot, so it is important to be patient and keep an eye out for them. It may take some time before you see one, but it will be worth it when you do!
You won’t have any trouble identifying a bald eagle nest.
Bald eagle nests are large structures made of sticks and branches, lined with softer materials like grasses, moss, and bark.
They are usually built in tall trees or on cliffs, and can be found near bodies of water like lakes, rivers, or coastal areas.
Here are a few characteristics to look for when identifying a bald eagle nest:
- Size: Bald eagle nests are typically very large, often measuring over 5 feet in diameter and 2-4 feet tall.
- Location: Look for nests in tall trees or on cliffs near bodies of water.
- Materials: Bald eagle nests are made of sticks and branches, lined with softer materials like grasses, moss, and bark.
- Shape: Bald eagle nests are generally circular or oval in shape.
- Presence of eagles: If you see a bald eagle or two near a nest, it is likely that it is their nest.
It is important to note that it is illegal to disturb bald eagle nests or to approach them too closely, as this can cause stress to the birds and potentially cause them to abandon their nest.
If you want to observe bald eagles, it is best to do so from a distance using binoculars or a spotting scope.
It is difficult to predict how long you will have to wait to see a bald eagle leave or enter its nest, as this can vary depending on a number of factors.
Some bald eagles may spend hours at their nest, while others may come and go more frequently.
Here are a few things that may influence how long a bald eagle stays at its nest:
- Nesting behavior: Bald eagles tend to be more active at their nest during the breeding season, when they are incubating eggs or feeding young. Outside of the breeding season, they may spend less time at the nest.
- Food availability: Bald eagles need to hunt for food to feed themselves and their young. If food is scarce, they may spend more time at the nest waiting for prey to come within range.
- Weather conditions: Bald eagles may spend more time at the nest during inclement weather, as it provides them with shelter and protection from the elements.
In general, it is best to be patient and watch the nest for a while to see if the bald eagle leaves or enters. With luck and some persistence, you should eventually be able to see the eagle come and go.
Not sure the bird you saw was a bald eagle? There is an easy way to find out. Download the Merlin App, which identifies 400 species of birds common in North America.
Also read: How to Start Birdwatching (Beginner’s Guide + Tips)
Frequently Asked Questions About Where Bald Eagles Live
Q. Do bald eagles live alone?
A. Most of the year, bald eagles are solitary birds. They spend their winters alone. They migrate alone.
However, bald eagles mate for life. Every year, a mated couple will find their nest and raise a new generation of young.
You will be most able to see bald eagles if you (very carefully) approach their nesting site.
Q. Is it possible to view baby bald eagles in their nest?
A. Unless you are a trained wildlife biologist or a licensed wildlife rehabilitation specialist, you should never attempt to go inside an eagle’s nest.
However, every spring you can view several nests of baby bald eagles on live HD webcam.
The American Eagle Foundation and the US Fish and Wildlife Service install webcams in bald eagle nests during the winter, when they are unoccupied.
They provide a livestream of the nest so anyone can watch the development of baby eagles the next spring.
American Eagle Foundation cameras have been set up inside nests located in the bald eagle rescue sanctuary at Dollywood.
There is a webcam inside the nest of two eagles named Samson and Gabrielle in northeast Florida.
The National Arboretum webcam monitors Mr. President and Lotus, a mated pair of bald eagles that live inside the Capitol.
There are also webcams on a nesting pair of bald eagles in Eastlake, Ohio and occasionally live feeds from other US locations.
Q. Where do the most bald eagles live?
A. The American Eagle Foundation estimates that there are 30,000 pairs of bald eagles in Alaska and possibly as many as 14,000 pairs in the Lower 48 of the United States.
Even though bald eagles will eat prey other than fish, they are most commonly found near rivers, lakes, and the ocean.
Q. Do bald eagles attack dogs? Do bald eagles attack cats?
A. Bald eagle attacks on puppies and cats are rare, but they do happen.
If you live within a mile (1500 meters) of an eagle’s nest, you should not leave small pets outdoors unattended.
An eagle will have trouble flying away with a pet, but it may drop a small animal to the ground to kill it.
If you see an eagle grabbing your pet, wave your arms and shout to shoo it away.
Make sure your backyard does not have trash piles or high grass that make good rodent habitat, which draws eagles, hawks, and owls to your property.
Q. Can you ever see a bald eagle in a zoo?
A. Some safari parks, such as the Condor Park run by the San Diego Zoo, maintain the bald eagle habitats.
You may be able to catch a glimpse of an eagle while you are on the trail, but you will not see an eagle in a cage. Dollywood maintains a giant eagle rehabilitation center.
Q. Where do bald eagles go in the winter?
A. If you live along the coast of the continental United States, in most of Texas, or in northern Mexico, bald eagles maintain their homes in your area all year-round.
In the rest of North America, bald eagles generally spend the winter as far north as there is ice-free water for fishing.
Q. Are wind turbines a major hazard to bald eagles?
A. There are still collisions between bald eagles and other raptors with wind turbines, but there are a lot fewer bald eagle deaths than there used to be.
Many wind turbine farms use camera and radar systems that shut down turbines when eagles are in the area.
A study by a consortium of conversation groups found that these systems reduce collisions between bald eagles and turbine blades by about 60 percent.
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