No doubt winter's set in. For many folks, cabin fever will as well.
Take the opportunity to get out and view one of wildlife’s majestic creatures – the bald eagle.
As winter spreads across the plains, hundreds of bald eagles make their way to our state. Their trek into Oklahoma begins in November and early December, peaking in January and February.
During the season’s peak months, between 800 and 2,000 eagles call our state home. Seeking warmth, these magnificent birds migrate south from Canada and northern states to join nearly 75-80 pairs of bald eagles that are year-round residents of Oklahoma.
With radiant white crowns, seven foot wing spans, and weighing eight to 15 pounds, they are among the largest birds of prey in the world. Bald means “white-headed.”
In the wild, eagles can live for 30 years. In captivity, they can live up to 50 years of age. The bald eagle prefers to roost along the shoreline on Oklahoma’s many rivers and lakes.
Primarily a fish-eater, groups of eagles will rest together or “roost” in trees along the shores, with the same roost trees being used each year. Before European settlers first sailed to America’s shores, bald eagles may have numbered half a million nesting in 45 of the lower 48 states.
By the late 1800s, eagle numbers had sharply declined. While there was no single cause for the drop in numbers loss of habitat, competition for food and DDT poison played a major role.
More than 100,000 bald eagles were killed in Alaska from 1917 to 1953. Alaskan salmon fisherman feared they were a threat to the salmon population.
Less than 30 years ago, the Bald Eagle was struggling to survive in America’s lower 48 states. Thanks to strong protection and avid recovery efforts, eagle populations have increased seven-fold since the early 1970s.
Bald eagles are sociable in winter, roosting communally in trees near a food source. The same roost trees are traditionally used year after year.
The best time to observe eagles is around sunrise or sunset.
Wear warm, neutral-colored clothing and appropriate outerwear. Winters in Oklahoma can be cold and windy, so bring along a warm coat, gloves, hat and scarf.
Bring binoculars, a camera (preferably with a zoom lens), and a field guide to help you identify eagles and other bird species you may find along the way.
Always call ahead to state parks or wildlife management areas for up-to-date eagle viewing information before your trip.
Area listings of an eagle watch event include Sequoyah State Park, Kaw Lake, Lake Thunderbird State Park, Keystone Lake and Keystone State Park, Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge, Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge, Great Salt Plains State Park, Chickasaw National Recreation Area, and Black Mesa State Park and Nature Preserve, to mention a few.
At Black Mesa, you can view the Golden Eagle. Instead of eating fish like the bald eagle, the golden eagle, in the western part of the state, feeds on small mammals such as jackrabbits and prairie dogs.
On January 19 at Lake Thunderbird State Park in Norman, meet at the Discovery Cove Nature Center for an information session at 1 p.m., then tour the park to catch a glimpse of magnificent eagles in their winter home. Each eagle watch is limited to 30 people, so reservations are required.
On January 26, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Sequoyah State Park near Hulbert, the Three Forks Nature Center will again host Bald Eagle Nest Viewing and will caravan to a few nest sites. You must preregister by calling (918) 772-2108. Space is limited.
Some of the parks listed on the state tourism website will have multiple watch through the end of January and even into February.
Go and see our national symbol in action.