ST. PAUL, Minn. - Bald eagles may be seen in large numbers across parts of the state over the next few weeks as they migrate back to the state.
"Ice is breaking up along the rivers, so it's definitely time for folks to keep their eyes out," said Lisa Gelvin-Innvaer, DNR regional nongame wildlife specialist. "It all depends on the weather. It's typical to see eagles coming through our area in mid-to-late March, as waters begin to open up and snow melts."
Only two states, Florida and Alaska, have greater nesting populations of bald eagles than Minnesota. In 2005, researchers estimated there are more than 1,300 active nests in Minnesota.
Fall migration typically occurs as lakes and rivers freeze over, since most eagles prefer a diet of fish. Bald eagle wintering grounds ideally contain open water, ample food, limited human disturbance and protective roosting sites.
Adult bald eagles are easily identified by a white head and tail contrasting with a dark brown body. Bald eagles attain full adult plumage in their fourth or fifth year. In flight, bald eagles are sometimes confused with turkey vultures. However, bald eagles have a tendency to soar on flat, board-like wings, while turkey vultures fly with their wings in a v-shape.
Not all bald eagles migrate southward in the fall, Gelvin-Innvaer said. In southern Minnesota, it's common for some eagle pairs to stay the winter, especially during milder winters.