by Cathy Bourner, Idaho Tourism
Seeing bald eagles in flight is something to behold. Here in Idaho, a traditional winter nesting ground for eagles, sightings are frequent. January is celebrated as National Bald Eagle Watching Month and from November through February, eagles are easy to see around the state. It isn’t the cold temperatures that drive the birds south. Instead, when the rivers freeze in their northern ranges of Canada and Alaska, the eagles move south to Idaho’s open waterways and a plentiful supply of fish. An abundant food supply and trees capable of supporting a nest that can exceed 10 feet in diameter are two factors that eagles require in a nesting area, and Idaho has a number of locations that fit the bill.
–Northern Idaho is a bald eagle spotting mecca. In the area around Bonners Ferry, eagle watchers are sure to have excellent viewing opportunities. Favorite locations to see nesting pairs include the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge, Perkins Lake and McArthur Lake Wildlife Management Area.
–Wintering eagles are most abundant along Lake Coeur d’Alene, Lake Pend Oreille, and sections of the Priest River in northern Idaho. Sightings at Wolf Lodge Bay and Beauty Bay are particularly rich viewing areas on Lake Coeur d’Alene. You may also take a winter eagle watching cruise with Coeur d’Alene Lake Cruises. Lake Pend Oreille Cruises offers eagle watching trips in the warmer months.
–Both bald and golden eagles can be seen during the winter at Silver Creek Preserve in the Wood River Valley south of Hailey in central Idaho.
–In south central Idaho, Thousand Springs State Park’s Box Canyon in the Hagerman Valley is a good place to eagle watch. Head south of Hagerman to the top of Vader Grade to watch eagles soar as the sun sets.
–Southwest of Nampa, Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge and Lake Lowell provides the right combination of fish and nesting locations for bald eagles.
—Barber Dam in southeast Boise is a more urban location to spot eagles, but it is not unusual to see them closer to downtown when you’re on the greenbelt.
–In eastern Idaho, The South Fork of the Snake River, stretching some 60 miles from Palisades Dam to its confluence with the Henrys Fork, hosts the largest breeding population of bald eagles in Idaho.
There are many more locations where you may catch sight of these magnificent birds. The Idaho Birding Trail is an outstanding
resource for locating the hundreds of bird species that inhabit Idaho. The Idaho Department of Fish & Game has put together an exhaustive list of an enormous variety of birds and where you can find them. The guide lists over 50 locations where bald eagles might be seen.
Leave your calendar open February 14-16, 2014 for Hagerman Idaho’s first Bird Festival. February is a spectacular time to view the thousands of waterfowl that winter in the open waters in this valley. The sheer number of birds in the area is impressive, but there is also a remarkable diversity with 75 to 100 species present. Programs for all levels and ages will include guided bird field trips with experts, workshops, the premier showing of “Idaho Owls,” a wine and cheese social and much more. Learn more at www.facebook.com/HagermanBirdFestival.
The Idaho Statesman ran an article about eagle watching in southwest Idaho on December 19. Take a look here.
Adding birdwatching to your Idaho winter adventure is easy! Contact a local chapter of the Audubon Society for more information or visit the links throughout this post. For more information about visiting Idaho go to www.visitidaho.org.