Your explanation was very helpful and it is very complex. Some eagles
always migrating, some roaming, multiple populations all following
I knew eagles from way up North had to travel south in winter to eat, but
we used to live in Newburyport, Mass. There Mass Audubon holds the annual
"Merrimack River Eagle Festival" in February. I learned there that Mass
had its own resident eagles, descendants of reintroduced eaglets brought
from Michigan in the early 90s, that didn't have to leave, but as you say,
they roamed around after nesting season and are rarely seen in late
The Merrimack River never freezes completely, but as the ice narrows it
up, it focuses the eagles at the mouth of the river and they can be easily
seen fishing the tidal waters, an amazing sight really, because their
northern cousins come south too, increasing the numbers of eagles seen in
the winter dramatically.
Thank you for the detailed explanation!!
Regards - Kelly
SFAS's Project Perch
> *Kelly asked about the locally-nesting eagles here in NE Illinois. Yes,
> tend to stay in the area or move south along the river system depending
> the severity of the winter. A very timely question, as I had been
> to write a blog on this subject.
> Bald Eagles have complicated migration habits, differing by age of the
birds, geographic location and the effects of weather and climate. Their
dependence upon fish as a dietary staple figures in on their seasonal
movements, as open water is essential and cooler water more desirable,
especially for younger birds as it causes the fish to move nearer the
surface, making them easier to catch. Adults seem to want to stay around
> defend their territory during the non-breeding season while young birds
travel more widely.
> Northernmost Bald Eagles such as those in northern Canada typically fly
south during the winter, with juveniles and immature birds leading the
exodus. They congregate in coastal areas or large rivers and lakes that
> not iced over. In the Northwest, the timing of the salmon run influences
post-breeding movement, as many move northward and northwest in late
> join Alaskan birds following the spawning salmon southward along the coast,
> then linger through the relatively mild winters along the Pacific coast.
Bald Eagles from the North Central states such as those at our local
> NE Illinois will wander locally as conditions permit. When winter sets
> eagles from the north join them, especially at dams and locks along the
Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. While Illinois has only about 30-40
breeding pairs of Bald Eagles, the state's winter population is commonly
over 3000 individuals from December through March.
> In the Northeast US, Bald Eagles fly south in fall (August through
> along the Appalachian mountains or follow the Atlantic coast. Many
congregate in Chesapeake Bay, and are joined by migrants, mostly
> birds from more southerly locations. Some Florida immature eagles have been
> tracked as far north as New England, returning to Florida in
> October-December. Adult Bald Eagles in south Florida tend to wander in the
> vicinity of the nesting territory during the non-breeding season (July
> Generally, Bald Eagles that nest in the lower 1/3 of the US (below 40
degrees latitude) are said to have less north-south migratory movement.
> Ken Schneider
> Web site: http://rosyfinch.com
> Blog: http://rosy-finch.blogspot.com
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