DNR: Expect large numbers of bald eagles

Bald eagles are migrating back to Minnesota and may be seen in large numbers across parts of the state over the next few weeks, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

“It’s definitely time for folks to keep their eyes out,” according to Lisa Gelvin-Innvaer, DNR regional nongame wildlife specialist. “Usually we see these bigger pulses of migrating eagles a little later in March, but it appears that timing may be early for a lot of natural events this year due to the mild winter.”

Only two states, Florida and Alaska, have greater nesting populations of bald eagles than Minnesota. In 2005, researchers estimated there to be more than 1,300 active nests in the state.

Fall migration typically occurs as lakes and rivers freeze because most eagles prefer fish. Bald eagle wintering grounds typically contain open water, ample food, limited human disturbance and protective roosting sites.

Gelvin-Innvaer said not all bald eagles migrate in the fall. In southern Minnesota, it’s common for some eagle pairs to stay the winter, especially during milder winters.

“This winter has been a good example,” Gelvin-Innvaer said. “We’ve had more open water than usual, and with the lack of snow, [carcasses] have been easy for eagles to find.”

Bald eagles that stay local may begin courting and nesting as early as December or January. Other bald eagles return to their breeding territories in late winter, as soon as a food source is available.

“Eagle migration hotspots are a bit of a moving target, so it’s hard to say where the eagles are right now,” Gelvin-Innvaer said. “In Minnesota, the biggest migrations tend to be along the Minnesota River corridor, the north shore of Lake Superior and around Lake Pepin in southeastern Minnesota.”

For more information on bald eagles or where to view them, click here.

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