Event Features In-Person And Remote Eagle Viewing Opportunities
The public is invited to participate in the 36th Annual Bald Eagle Watching Days on Jan. 15-16 to view bald eagles such as the one pictured above and to celebrate the species remarkable comeback in Wisconsin. Photo Credit: Wisconsin DNR
PRAIRIE DU SAC, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) invites the public to participate in the 36th Annual Bald Eagle Watching Days on Jan. 15-16 to celebrate the species and its remarkable comeback in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin’s longest-running eagle-watching event features in-person and virtual activities. Participants can catch a glimpse of eagles over the Wisconsin River at the newly expanded overlook on Water Street in Prairie du Sac. Volunteers will be available at the overlook to answer questions about bald eagles, weather permitting.
Attendees can also enjoy a self-guided tour on their mobile device of prime eagle viewing areas along the upper and lower portions of the Lower Wisconsin River. Both tours start at the Sauk-Prairie Area Chamber of Commerce in Sauk City. Visit the Ferry Bluff Eagle Council website for instructions.
The public can also attend presentations at the River Arts Center or watch live from the comfort of their home on the Ferry Bluff Eagle Council’s YouTube channel.
“The comeback of bald eagles in Wisconsin is an amazing story, and we’re excited to share this story with people in a special hybrid event,” said Jeb Barzen, President of the Ferry Bluff Eagle Council. “In our area, people living along the Lower Wisconsin River have worked hard to provide an environment where eagles and human neighbors thrive.”
“After 36 years of participating in the Bald Eagle Watching Days, we’re as excited as ever to promote bald eagle conservation and assist the public with viewing opportunities during winter in the Sauk Prairie area,” said Sumner Matteson, DNR Avian Ecologist. “In addition to the in-person events, the virtual options allow people to watch the programming throughout the year, instead of just in one weekend.”
Bald eagles tend to congregate near open water areas on the Wisconsin River, including below the Prairie du Sac dam where they can fish, offering a scenic destination to view the species in the wild. In general, eagle watching is best during the morning hours when the birds are most active fishing and are frequently seen perching in trees along the rivers.
When viewing eagles, please keep your distance as not to cause them to fly off. Remain in your vehicle when near them. Do not walk along the river, particularly at the hydropower dam since it is the eagles’ most active feeding area. Eagles, especially immature ones, need to conserve their energy to survive Wisconsin winters.
The 2022 Bald Eagle Watching Days event is co-sponsored by the DNR, Ferry Bluff Eagle Council, Sauk Prairie Area Chamber of Commerce and Tripp Heritage Museum in Prairie du Sac.
For more information and to download the event schedule, visit the Ferry Bluff Eagle Council website.
Programming includes a mix of in-person, live-streamed and pre-recorded events beginning at 8 a.m. on Jan. 15 and 16. Highlights include:
Saturday, Jan. 15
- Stop by the newly expanded overlook on Water Street to view eagles and learn more about the species from volunteers available from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., weather permitting.
- Visit the Tripp Heritage Museum from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. to catch pre-filmed presentations of Old Abe, Civil War Eagle and The Bald Eagle in Native American Culture. Masks required.
- Attend live and pre-recorded presentations at the River Arts Center (available Saturday only); Masks required:
- 10 – 11:15 a.m.: In-person Schlitz Audubon Nature Center live raptor show, followed by a question & answer session
- 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.: “Laughing with the Animals” show hosted by educator and entertainer David Stokes, followed by a question & answer session
- 1:30 – 2:45 p.m.: Pre-recorded release of a bald eagle brought back to health by Marge Gibson, Executive Director of Raptor Education Group, Inc. Following the release, Gibson will join the participants at the River Arts Center via Zoom to talk about rehabilitation work and answer questions
- 3 – 4:15 p.m.: In-person Schlitz Audubon Nature Center live raptor show, followed by a question & answer session
Sunday, Jan. 16
- Stop by the newly expanded overlook on Water Street to view eagles and learn more about the species from volunteers available from 8 a.m. – 12 p.m., weather permitting.
Event Honors Wisconsin’s Growing Bald Eagle Population
Bald Eagle Watching Days started in 1987 to highlight the comeback of bald eagles since their listing in the 1970s as an endangered species. The national ban on the pesticide DDT, added protections under state and federal endangered species laws, cleaned up rivers and public support of nest monitoring and protection efforts allowed bald eagles to fly off the state endangered species list in 1997 and the federal list a decade later.
Bald eagle populations in Wisconsin have grown from 108 occupied nests in 1973 to nearly 1,700 in 2019, affording fantastic viewing opportunities as eagles from northern Wisconsin, Canada, northern Michigan and Minnesota move south in search of new nesting territories.
Bald eagle nests are federally protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s eagle permit webpages 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.
Visit the DNR’s Eagles In Wisconsin webpage for more information and to learn how to report and help monitor nests in the state.