“Migration has begun”: where to see bald eagles returning in large numbers to Colorado

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According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the bald eagle’s annual migration to Colorado has begun.

Every year, from November to March, migratory bald eagles return in large numbers to Colorado from the north, and more than 1,000 eagles are expected to cross the state this winter. Barr Lake State Park reports that 35 birds were spotted by volunteers on Wednesday, and more eagles are expected to pour into the state in the days and weeks to come.

When it comes to eagles, they are a bit unique in terms of migration. For starters, not all of them migrate.

Colorado is home to around 200 breeding pairs and these tend to stay in the state year round. Their migratory counterparts will pass, but even then they are not as consistent as other bird species.

Several factors play a role in when and where an eagle will migrate, including the age of the bird, food availability, and where the bird lives. Whether or not a bird is a breeder is also a factor, as these birds are likely to remain in their nesting area throughout the year.

According to the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, one of the reasons the northern and eastern eagles choose Colorado is the subsequent freezing of the state’s water bodies. This means that one of the eagles’ main food sources – fish – can be caught later in the year.

If you’re looking to spot a bald eagle this season, here are twelve places you have a good chance:

1. Barr Lake State Park

A favorite destination for Colorado bird watchers, Barr Lake State Park is home to over 370 species of birds year round, including bald eagles.

Find more information here.

2. Eleven Mile State Park

Located about an hour and a half west of Colorado Springs, Eleven Mile State Park is another famous place for eagle watching. It is home to a large reservoir with a thriving salmon population in an area nicknamed “Dream Stream”.

3. Saint-Vrain State Park

Visit St. Vrain State Park near Longmont during the winter for the chance to spot a bald eagle. There are 14 ponds located in the park, providing perfect habitat for many species. Another unique species found here can be spotted during the summer – American white pelicans.

4. Highline Lake State Park

Located in northwest Colorado near Loma, Highline Lake State Park has been dubbed “Important Bird Area” by the National Audubon Society because it is home to over 200 species of birds. Bald eagles are frequently seen here during the winter months.

5. Yampa River State Park

Also known to attract sandhill cranes on their annual migration, Yampa River State Park is home to nesting bald eagles. Find Yampa River State Park just west of Steamboat Springs.

6. Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Site

The wide variety of birds at the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Site attracts bird watchers year round. Find golden and bald eagles at this destination, along with over 100 other bird species.

7. John Martin Reservoir State Park

Located in Bent County, John Martin Reservoir State Park is one of the best birding spots in the state. In addition to two federally protected shorebirds – the Least Tern and the Piping Plover – bald eagles can be found at this destination. The large reservoir is a great place to hunt and live for eagles.

8. Lake Trinidad State Park

Although eagles can be difficult to spot here year round, Trinidad Lake State Park is known to attract bald eagles during the winter. Find Trinidad Lake State Park four miles west of Trinidad, Colorado, near the southern state border.

9. Sweitzer Lake State Park

A great park for waterfowl viewing, Sweitzer Lake State Park is located near Delta, between Grand Junction and Montrose. It is home to a 137-acre reservoir and is a popular birding spot. Eagles are known to frequent this area.

10. Fossil Creek Reservoir Natural Area

Designated as an “Important Bird Area” by the National Audubon Society, the Fossil Creek Reservoir Natural Area is home to bald eagles during the winter months of the year. Open daily from dawn to dusk, two popular trails that lead to viewing areas include the Sandpiper Trail and Cattail Flats Trail, subject to seasonal closure to protect the perch. This place is near Fort Collins.

11. Standley Lake Regional Park

Located in Jefferson County, Standley Lake Regional Park is a proud place for its eagles, maintaining an active social media presence that helps document their activities. Watch the live “Eagle Camera” online to see what these majestic birds are up to or visit the park to see the action in real life.

12. Pueblo Lake State Park

Home to the Pueblo Reservoir, Pueblo Lake State Park is a great place for eagle watching thanks to the great food source provided by the large lake. This Front Range destination is located about an hour south of Colorado Springs.

Four tips for spotting bald eagles:

1. Look near water sources, including rivers, lakes and reservoirs. This is where bald eagles tend to find their food, so they rarely travel far from these places.

2. Use binoculars. This will greatly improve your chances of having a good view of a bird.

3. Go scouting in cold weather. Eagles tend to perch longer in colder weather, making them more predictable and easier to see.

4. Dawn and dusk are good times to spot perched eagles. Eagles tend to congregate in one place when they go out for the night. Look in the thickets of trees by the lake.

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