The best places in the US for bald eagle spotting

Stef Zisovska

The bald eagle is a massive bird that’s native to North America. Funny thing is that it’s not actually bald, but white headed. The bald eagle has the largest tree nest ever recorded in any animal species, up to 13 ft. deep and 8.5 ft. wide. This huge and unique-looking bird can be spotted in various locations across the country. If you are a bird lover, then a bald eagle is probably on your top five birding list. Watching these magnificent birds in their natural habitat is equally exciting to watching humpback whales rising near your sailing boat. When you see a bald eagle in the wild, the first reaction is: “Oh my, that bird is huge!” Here are the best places in America for bald eagle spotting.

Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, Illinois

Bald eagle
Bald eagle

From the end of January to mid-February is the best part of the year to visit the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge to see an active bald eagle nest. There are organized van tours that will guide you through the area where the bald eagles hang out. Make sure you have your camera with you to make the best shots ever.

Upper Mississippi River National Park and Fish Refuge, Iowa

Wintertime is perfect for observing the bald eagles hunting on the open waters. Sometimes their number can get as high as a few hundred, so if you visit the park during the cold months, there is a very good chance of spotting plenty of these mighty predators. You can take a bus from Clinton that will drop you off at the park’s entrance so you can enjoy the Mississippi River surroundings for a few hours.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland


The biggest concentration of bald eagles on the East Coast can be seen at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland. More than 200 hundred birds are to be seen roaming the skies over the area, which is a unique opportunity for any eagle fan to see so many individual specimens of the famous raptor.

Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge, Missouri

About 100 miles north of Kansas City you can visit the Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge where bald eagles hang out all winter (unless there is a deep freeze). During the spring migration from February to April, newcomers are easily spotted throughout the refuge, so if you are planning a trip to Missouri, this period is perfect to do it. Squaw Creek is an attractive place for active hikers as well because the 1.5-mile hiking trail called Eagle Overlook offers eagle viewing from the wetlands.

Carson Valley, Nevada

The calving season in Carson Valley in Nevada attracts plenty of bald eagle individuals to the area’s ranches as they are often bursting with food opportunities for the massive birds. You can visit this area throughout the whole winter season and capture the pictures of a lifetime. If you have no plans for this winter, you can join birders and historians from the area on some of the tours and spend some good-quality time around the ranches in Carson Valley.

Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge, Tennessee

Bald eagle
Bald eagle

The best time of the year to see bald eagles in Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge in Tennessee is during February when more than 200 wintering eagles come around Reelfoot Lake. Large numbers of duck and geese in the area attract the eagles in the cold months and their number rises significantly. Two observation decks in the refuge remain open all year round and are built to receive visitors. There are around 32 resident eagle nests in this area.

Bald eagle spotting is even more fun if done with fellow birders or kids. Choose the closest birding spot and grab the opportunity to teach your children about America’s trademark bird, the great bald eagle.

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stef-zisovska is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival