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Eagles in Wisconsin

Once endangered, bald eagles have made a remarkable comeback in Wisconsin. Their recovery was made possible by the national ban on the pesticide DDT, added protections under federal and state endangered species laws, river cleanups, citizen donations and monitoring by DNR’s Natural Heritage Conservation staff and partners. Wisconsin’s bald eagle license plate celebrates this success and raises money to help drive the next conservation success.

Occupied eagle nests in 1974
Occupied eagle nests in 2019

Report a nest and get involved in monitoring

71 of 72 Wisconsin counties now have documented active eagle nests. Citizens are playing a growing role in helping locate new nests and monitoring known nests.

  • Report suspected new, or “smallish” nests to the NHC field ecologist, particularly nests in Milwaukee County, the only county where no active nests have been documented.
  • Help monitor nests from the ground in southern Wisconsin and the Fox Valley with Madison Audubon Society's and 1000 Islands Environmental Center through the Bald Eagle Nest Watch program.

Eagle watching events

Bald eagles from northern Wisconsin, Canada, northern Michigan and Minnesota move south in winter in search of open water where they can catch fish. They typically congregate along open water areas along the Wisconsin, Mississippi and Fox rivers.

Several Wisconsin communities typically offer bald eagle watching events in winter.

eagle.jpg

Winter bald eagle viewing locations

The best time to see bald eagles is early morning (8-11 a.m.) as they move in from their nearby roost sites to actively feed along the river through the last one to two hours before dusk as they return to their roosts. When viewing eagles, please do not venture so close that you cause them to fly off and please stay in your car when in close proximity to them.

Please observe “closed area” signs during the roosting and breeding seasons to avoid disturbing eagles.

Fox River

Mississippi River

Wisconsin River

  • Below Petenwell Dam
  • In the Sauk Prairie area, use the Ferry Bluff Eagle Council’s self-guided tour to find prime viewing sites along the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway.
  • State Highway 60 runs along the north side of the Lower Wisconsin River and has a few pull-offs including one just east of Boscobel.
Bald eagle nest
Photo by Steve Fisher.

Protections in place to keep bald eagle populations strong

Bald eagle nests are federally protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Eagle Management Program page provides guidance for landowners to avoid impacting eagle nests on their property.

Nest monitoring surveys and winter surveys continue to keep tabs on the population and to provide landowners with the best guidance on how to avoid impacting eagle nests. DNR aerial nest surveys in 2019 found 1,684 occupied nests, up from 108 in the 1970s.

Partners keep the recovery going strong

Volunteers and organizations play an important role in bald eagles’ comeback and DNR couldn’t do it without these and other organizations and individuals.

  • The Ferry Bluff Eagle Council protects habitat, raises awareness and conducts winter roost monitoring.
  • Wildlife rehabilitators like the Raptor Education Group, Inc. in Antigo nurse injured and sick bald eagles back to health.
  • Communities along the Wisconsin, Fox and Mississippi rivers host eagle watching events.
  • Madison Audubon Society’s citizen science program “Bald Eagle Nest Watch” uses volunteers to help track nesting activity.

Help protect Wisconsin's eagles

Celebrate eagles and help support the next conservation success by buying a bald eagle license plate. DNR's work with bald eagles is funded by license plate sales and through donations to the Endangered Resources Fund.