in Southern California
The best time of year to see Bald Eagles in Southern California
is during Winter months, when there is
an influx of Eagles. Migrating Eagles
typically begin arriving in the area in late November and leave in late March
or early April.
Bald Eagles are usually found close to water because their diet
is primarily made up of fish and ducks.
As Winter approaches in those northern regions, lakes freeze over and
waterfowl fly south. For Bald Eagles,
that means that the food they eat has become scarce. So, they head south looking for areas with
abundant food supplies and end up wintering in sunny Southern California!
During the Winter, Southern California Bald Eagles are typically
found at many of the lakes, including Big Bear Lake, Baldwin Lake, Silverwood
Lake, Lake Arrowhead, Green Valley Lake, and Grass Valley Lake in the San
Bernardino Mountains and Prado Dam, Lake Perris, Lake Hemet, Lake Skinner,
Diamond Valley Lake, Lake Matthews, and the Salton Sea to the south.
Through radio-tracking efforts, biologists have learned that
some of the same individual Eagles return to the San Bernardino Mountains year-after-year. We also determined that there is a lot of
movement of Eagles between the different mountain lakes and that the lakes do
not have distinctive separate populations—the Eagles regularly move between the
Radio-tracking and/or banding also revealed that the Eagles that
Winter in the San Bernardino Mountains migrate to Southern California from
Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Canada.
Those regions are likely where most of our migratory Bald Eagles nest in
Spring and Summer. Some of the San
Bernardino Mountains’ Eagles were tracked all the way to Alberta and the
Northwest Territories in Canada - that is about 2,000 miles one-way!
For more information regarding Bald Eagle migratory routes for
these and other California Eagles go to the University of Santa Cruz Predatory
Bird Research Group’s web site at: (http://www2.ucsc.edu/scpbrg/baeamigration.htm). While the evidence suggests a northern
interior migration for most of the Bald Eagles, some of our Southern California
Eagles have traveled fewer miles, moving over from the Channel Islands.
Breeding populations of Bald Eagles in Southern California were
extirpated by the late 1950s. Until
reintroduction efforts began in the 1980s on Catalina Island, the southern-most
nest site known in California was in Lake County. Since 2003, several pairs of Bald Eagles have
decided that our southern California neighborhoods were too nice to leave –
they built nests and have successfully raised families. Nesting Bald Eagles can now be found at Lake
Hemet, Lake Skinner, Lake Matthews, and Big Bear Lake. As the local populations continue to grow in
North America, year-round residency and nesting is becoming more common.
This is exactly what happened at Lake Hemet in Riverside
County. The female Eagle with orange
wing tags “02” hatched at San Francisco Zoo in 2000 and was released as a chick
on Catalina Island as part of the re-introduction efforts. In 2004, she arrived at Lake Hemet and
decided to take up year-round residence with the male Bald Eagle that was
already there. This pair has nested
every year since then. In 2012, the
first successful Bald Eagle nesting ever recorded in the San Bernardino
Mountains happened in Big Bear Lake!
As Bald Eagles raise families in Southern California, it is now
possible to see Bald Eagles year-round (not just during Winter
migrations). Nonetheless, because of the
influx of migrating Bald Eagles during the Winter, the easiest time to see Eagles
is still between December and March.
The Bald Eagle is a success story of the Federal Endangered Species Act – through protection under that law;
its populations have recovered from the brink of extinction. Captive breeding programs, reintroduction
efforts, the banning of DDT, and public education have all helped in the
recovery of this species. There are over
10,000 breeding pairs in the United States and they now breed again in all 49
of the continental United States (they have never bred in Hawaii).
Because of the population rebound, Bald Eagles are no longer in
jeopardy of going extinct. While Bald
Eagles are no longer protected under Federal
Endangered Species Act, they still have full protection under the Bald Eagle Protection Act and under the
State of California’s Endangered Species
Act. These laws make it illegal to
harm or harass Bald Eagles. It is also
illegal to possess Bald Eagle parts, even a feather.
Catching a glimpse of our breath-taking national symbol is
relatively easy during Winter months.
There are some fantastic opportunities for excellent close-up
photographs too. Just look in the
tallest trees around the lake, near open water for perching Eagles. Or, if the lake is partly frozen, look for Eagles
perched on the ice near small groups of ducks using the open water.
If you want to look for Eagles
in the Big Bear Lake area, stop by the Forest Service's Big Bear Discovery
Center (on North Shore Drive, 1-1/2 miles west of Stanfield Cutoff) and pick up
a hand-out about the Eagles. Also, join us for one of our free public talks –
call the Big Bear Discovery Center (909-382-2790) for dates and times.
If you are in Garner
Valley and want to see the resident pair, stop by the Forest Service’s Lake
Hemet Day Use Area and just look across the lake. The birds are often flying
overhead and/or sitting in trees above the picnic area.
Remember, that human presence may distract or disturb the Eagles
- so, try to limit your movements and do not make loud noises when they're
nearby. If possible, remain in your car
while looking at Eagles - the car acts as a blind. Stay a respectful distance of at least
200-300’ away from perched Bald
Do not get closer than ¼ mile away nesting Bald Eagles – trying to get a closer look may result in eagles becoming agitated and
knocking eggs or chicks out to the nest.
It is illegal to harm or harass Bald Eagles.
Please do your part to help protect our national bird!
SEE Bald Eagle Counts Winter 2016-2017 Schedule : http://www.BigBearLake.net/EPIC/11 BALD EAGLES/
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U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity and
productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of
present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public
land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the
largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest
Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year
through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the
nation's clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The
agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent
of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres
are urban forests where most Americans live.
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Bald Eagles at Big Bear Lake