Bald eagle watching events take off in January

Sauk Prairie Bald Eagle Watching Days Jan. 12-13

MADISON – Wisconsin’s bald eagle watching season kicks off Jan. 12-13 with the 31st annual Bald Eagle Watching Days in Sauk Prairie, and there’s never been a better time to see these magnificent raptors in Wisconsin.

Bald eagles congregate along open water areas near the dam at Prairie du Sac.  - Photo credit: DNR
Bald eagles congregate along open water areas near the dam at Prairie du Sac. Photo credit: DNR

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. 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 birdwatching 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.

“Come view wintering bald eagles, take in live birds of prey shows, and learn about bald eagles through exhibits and activities that are fun for the whole family. It’s a great way to start off the New Year!”

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.”

In addition to outdoor viewing opportunities, Bald Eagle Watching Days in Sauk Prairie offers live raptor shows, bald eagle exhibits, information and other family-friendly activities. - Photo credit: DNR
In addition to outdoor viewing opportunities, Bald Eagle Watching Days in Sauk Prairie offers live raptor shows, bald eagle exhibits, information and other family-friendly activities.Photo credit: Kurt Eakle

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.

Check DNR eagle watching page for more events this winter

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. Known eagle watching events include the following listed below; find links to these and more eagle information on theĀ eagle watching page of the DNR website.

  • Eagle Days Along the Fox River, January 13, 20-21, and 27, 2018 at various locations along the Fox River;
  • Bald Eagle Appreciation Days on February 23-24, 2018, in Prairie du Chien, Wis.
  • Eagle Watching Day March 3, 2018, in Ferryville, Wis.

When viewing eagles at these events and on your own, please take care not to disturb them. Do not venture so close that you cause them to 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.