Bald eagle watching events take off in January

Wisconsin State Farmer
Bald eagles congregate along open water areas near the dam at Prairie du Sac.

MADISON - Wisconsin's bald eagle watching season kicks off Jan. 12 - 13 with the 31st annual Bald Eagle Watching Days in Sauk Prairie.

Bald eagle populations in Wisconsin have recovered since a low of 108 breeding pairs in the 1970s to a record high 1,590 breeding pairs in 2017, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Bald eagles from northern Wisconsin, Canada, northern Michigan and Minnesota move south as the lakes and rivers they live along freeze over during cold winters.

Seeking fish, a main food source, the raptors typically congregate along open water areas below dams along the Wisconsin, Mississippi and Fox rivers, where their growing presence has turned the sites into bird watching destinations and inspired many community events.

The Sauk Prairie Bald Eagle Watching Days event, held at various outdoor and indoor locations along the Wisconsin River in Sauk City and Prairie du Sac, is the oldest such event combining outdoor viewing opportunities, exhibits and live raptor shows. DNR's Natural Heritage Conservation Program co-hosts Bald Eagle Watching Days with the Ferry Bluff Eagle Council, the Sauk Prairie Area Chamber of Commerce and the Tripp Heritage Museum.

"Bald Eagle Days allows all of us to enjoy the majesty and beauty of our nation's symbol in common fellowship," says Sumner Matteson, an avian ecologist with the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Program.

There will be numerous opportunities to view bald ealges in Wisconsin in January.

Barb Barzen, Ferry Bluff Eagle Council vice president, is excited about two new programs added to the event this year. "Attendees will hear from National Eagle Center experts about the growing population of golden eagles in the Midwest and how volunteers can get involved in helping locate and monitor these birds."

Also new this year, Art Shegonee, a Menominee and Potawatomi member and Native American educator and dancer, will share ways the bald eagle is important to Native American culture, Barzen says.

More events

In addition to the Sauk Prairie event, other communities have added events built around watching eagles as populations of the raptor have increased and expanded geographically.

1000 Islands Environmental Center along with the Northeast Wisconsin Alliance organization, the WDNR and other interested enthusiasts are collaborating to provide opportunities for everyone to view Bald Eagles along the Fox River during the month of January.

Eagle watching events include the following listed below.

  • Eagle Days Along the Fox River - Jan. 13, 20 - 21, and 27, 2018 at various locations along the Fox River;
  • Jan. 13 - Mid-Winter Eagle Monitoring: 6:44-8:35 a.m. - eagle monitoring at designated sites; 10a.m.-noon, reception and update on 2016-17 monitoring results at Atlas Waterfront Cafe. 
  • Jan. 20 – 21 -  various eagle education programs: 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Paper Discovery Center; 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Neenah Public Library;  7:45-9:15 a.m., guided bird hikes at various locations; 7 a.m.-5 p.m., self-guided viewing locations along the Fox River.
  • Jan. 27 - various eagle education programs: 7 a.m. - 5 p.m., 1000 Islands Environmental Center; 9 a.m. - noon, Kaukauna Public Library; 7 a.m. - 5 p.m., guided viewing locations along the Fox River (Kaukauna locations only). 
  • Bald Eagle Appreciation Days on Feb. 23 - 24, 2018, in Prairie du Chien.
  • Eagle Watching Day March 3, 2018, in Ferryville.

A map of locations for the various viewing sites can be found at the Soar With Eagle Days Along the Fox River website

Find links to these and more eagle information on the eagle watching page of the DNR website.

When viewing eagles at these events and on your own, please take care not to disturb them. Do not venture so close that they fly off. They need their energy to keep warm through the long winter night. Stay in your car unless you are at a staffed viewing site.