Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Season: Bald Eagles nest in the Winnebago County and forage widely through the area. They can be seen at any time of year flying over any part of the county. More eagles are present in the winter months when lakes and rivers freeze up to the north of us. In winter they generally stay close to the rivers.

Places to go: Eagles can often be seen from the parking lot of the Gray’s IGA on South Main Street. They sit in the large Cottonwood tree at the river edge. If they aren’t there, cross the 15th Avenue bridge and check the trees along the river in Blackhawk Park. Bald Eagles use the area near the Airport just downstream of where South Main St. crosses the Rock River.

Tips for finding and identifying: Eagles often sit still in trees for a long time. An Eagle high in the sky will often soar in circles for a long time with no wing flapping. They are very large. The only other common bird in this area that is close to the size and behavior of a Bald Eagle is the Turkey Vulture. Turkey Vultures become very scarce in the winter and they have a “small-headed” look because of the lack of feathers on their heads. Because of their large size, eagles’ wing beats are relatively slow as compared to a Red-tailed Hawk or a crow. Eagles have many different plumages and are not always as easy to identify as you would think. First year birds are dark brown. Second through fourth year birds are variously mottled brown and cream, They slowly acquire the all white head and tail and the solid dark body of the adult by the fifth year.

Special cautions: The nests of birds of prey are particularly vulnerable to disturbance, even from well meaning people. Therefore, we never reveal the location of hawk, owl or eagle nests. Those who know the location of nests have a duty to help protect the birds by keeping the location secret.

Submitted by Barbara Williams

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