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Bald Eagles in the St. Lawrence River Region

perching adult bald eagle

The St. Lawrence River area is one of New York's prime wintering locations for bald eagles. Viewing the wintering eagles is a popular activity for residents and visitors to the area.

Restoration programs undertaken during the 1970s and 1980s have significantly increased eagle numbers in the St. Lawrence region. DEC's bald eagle restoration (or hacking) program was conducted between 1976 and 1989. It increased the nesting eagle population throughout the region, including northern New York and southern Ontario. As the number of breeding eagles and young increases, so does the number of wintering birds.

Where to See Wintering Bald Eagles

As lakes and rivers freeze up in the northern United States and Canada, bald eagles that have nested and spent the summer in these areas move south to open water where they can find food, usually fish and waterfowl.

The St. Lawrence River has been identified as a bald eagle wintering area since at least 1975. It is currently the second largest known in New York State. The wintering area annually supports an average of 20 to 30 eagles. It lies along the upper reaches of the St. Lawrence between Kingston, Ontario, and Cape Vincent, New York on the south, to Cornwall, Ontario and Massena, New York to the north.

In early winter, eagles can be spotted at Wellesley Island State Park along the edge of the ice or roosting in trees along the shoreline. As the ice forms in these areas, the eagles move further east to the Brockville Narrows or other open water.

Bald Eagle Research in the St. Lawrence Region

bald eagles in winter
St. Lawrence-wintering bald eagles have been
tracked via satellite to Quebec, northern and
western Ontario, and as far as 500 miles away!

New York State and the Canadian Province of Ontario are dedicated to research and management of bald eagles, studying migration movements, wintering, and nesting activities in the St. Lawrence River region.

DEC, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and other public and private organizations monitor the activities and movements of wintering eagles. They sponsor frequent aerial and land-based counts during the winter months to document the birds' numbers and locations.

Studies involving live-capture and radio telemetry are being conducted to identify critical use areas and management needs of these birds. Such information is vital to protect wintering eagles, given the modern-day pressures occurring on their habitats.

How You Can Help

The most important way in which everyone can help bald eagles is to observe them with care and consideration - remain at least a quarter mile away, and stay clear of roosting areas.

Property owners and concerned citizens living in the important bald eagle wintering area along the Upper St. Lawrence River have a special role in helping bald eagles.

  • If eagles are roosting overnight or perching during the day in trees on your property, please consider their needs and preserve these trees.
  • If you think eagles are using your property, please contact the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) in Watertown.
  • Volunteers are needed to observe and document bald eagle activities in their neighborhoods on a daily or weekly basis, augmenting the data collected by researchers. If you are able to assist, please contact the following organizations for further information, and report all sightings to DEC at the address below.

St. Lawrence River Region Contacts for Eagle Observers and Volunteers

317 Washington Street
Watertown, New York 13601

Parks Canada
St. Lawrence Islands National Park
2 County Road 5, RR #3
Mallorytown, Ontario, CANADA K0E1R0

Ministry of Natural Resources
Box 2002, Concession Road
Kemptville, Ontario KOG1JO

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