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Watchable Wildlife: Bald Eagle

Quick Facts

A mature bald eagle walking along the shore of an icy waterbody
Bald eagle - Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Photo: Lou Buscher
  • In 1976 there was only one pair of bald eagles nesting in New York. Conservation efforts have increased that number to 389 territories in 2015.
  • Bald eagles mate for life - which can be over 30 years.
  • Nests are reused and added to each year, growing to over six feet across, eight feet deep, and weighing hundreds of pounds.
  • An eagle's 2-inch-long talons can exert 1,000 pounds of pressure per square inch.
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What to Watch for


30 inches tall with a wingspan of six to seven feet.


Adults have a brown body, white head and tail, and bright yellow bill and feet.
Females and males look the same, except the female is one-third larger and heavier, typical of birds of prey.
Immature eagles are mostly chocolate brown and lack the white head and tail.

Other Signs to Watch for

A young bald eagle flying in the snow
An immature bald eagle
Photo: Lou Buscher

Eagles hold their wings straight out from their bodies when gliding. The feathers at the tips of the wings are widely separated. The turkey vulture, another large bird of prey, glides with its wings in a V-shape.

Where to Watch

Scan the tree-tops for eagles perched there or watch the sky. Eagles like heavily wooded areas near water with tall trees for nesting and perching. They eat a lot of fish so check ice flows or river islands for eagles enjoying a meal. In the winter, look for areas of open water often found near power plant discharges or where tributaries enter a river.

When to Watch

Winter is the best time to watch. Wintering eagles arrive in December with concentrations peaking in January and February. Eagles are most active between 7am to 9am and 4 pm to 5 pm.

More Information about Bald Eagles

Viewing bald eagles in New York State
National Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Survey (leaves DEC website)
Bald Eagle Fact Sheet
Bald Eagle Restoration in New York
The Eagle Institute (leaves DEC website)

The Best Places to See Bald Eagles

The corner of a bald eagle nest high in the trees overlooking a river
The edge of a bald eagle nest high in the
treetops by the upper Delaware River.
Photo: Peter Nye

Along the Hudson River
Margaret Lewis Norrie Point State Park (leaves DEC website)
Constitution Island from North Dock, West Point (leaves DEC website)
Route 6/202 overlook above Iona Island State Park
Riverfront Park, Peekskill (leaves DEC website)
Charles Point/China Pier, Peekskill (leaves DEC website)
Verplanck waterfront
George's Island Park parking area, Montrose (leaves DEC website)

The Upper Delaware River watershed
Mongaup Valley Wildlife Management Area
Mongaup Falls Reservoir
Rio Reservoir

Upper reaches of the St. Lawrence River
Wellesley Island State Park (early winter)
Brockville Narrows
Kingston, Ontario, and Cape Vincent, New York on the south;
Cornwall, Ontario and Massena, New York to the north.

Central New York
Onondaga Lake

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