Oklahoma’s mild winters make the state a great fit for eagles during the coldest months of the year, and a number of opportunities are available to see one.
Wintering eagles begin arriving in Oklahoma in November and early December. Their numbers peak in January and February, and most birds have left for their northern breeding grounds by the end of March. Additionally, Oklahoma is home to a resident eagle population that has grown since the late 1980s from no birds to over 80 pairs. Eagle populations have fluctuated over time, and were once on the national endangered species list (from 1972 through 2007).
Today eagles are a common sight during the winter at lakes and reservoirs. A number of organized and self-guided eagle viewing opportunities at as many as 15 locations this winter are outlined on the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s website at wildlifedepartment.com.
Lakes and their spillways have historically served as reliable Oklahoma bald eagle viewing areas. Lakes with the highest concentration of eagles are Kaw, Keystone, Texoma, Tenkiller, Ft. Gibson, Grand, Canton, Great Salt Plains, Tishomingo and Spavinaw.
Specific bald eagle migration patterns vary each year depending on weather and other factors like severity of northern winters, and water discharges from individual reservoirs will often determine how attractive a particular lake is to bald eagles. These conditions can change overnight; therefore, a good wildlife viewing rule of thumb is to call ahead for up-to-date wildlife viewing information.
With a wingspan longer than seven feet, bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in Oklahoma are primarily found in the eastern and central portions of the state, and the peak viewing time for bald eagles in Oklahoma will extend into February.
To learn about eagle viewing sites and upcoming viewing events, tour dates and times, log on to wildlifedepartment.com and select the “Wildlife & Land Management” tab, then choose “Birds and Bats.”