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Eagles in Wisconsin

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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

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. COVID-19 has spurred event changes and/or cancellation. Follow the links below for the latest information.

  • Bald Eagle Watching Days in the Sauk Prairie area is virtual for 2021! 
    Livestream live and pre-recorded programming Jan. 16 & 23, and Feb. 6 & 20. Learn more: Ferry Bluff Eagle Council    
  • Eagle Days in Kaukauna is set for Jan. 23, 2021 and features outside and online events. Learn more: 1000 Islands Environmental Center
  • Bald Eagle Appreciation Day in Prairie du Chien has been canceled.
  • Bald Eagle Watching Day 2021 in Ferryville has been canceled.
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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 permit pages provide 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.

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 DNR biologist, 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.

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.
  • Adopt-An-Eagle Nest donors, ER license plate holders and other donors help pay for surveys.

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.