The 6 Best Places and Times to See Bald Eagles in New York

It’s an exciting sight to watch a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) soar over the sky. Native People regarded this magnificent bird with tremendous respect and significance long before it was adopted as the official national emblem of the United States in 1782. Where are the greatest places to see them if you’re in New York?

These huge predators look for places to nest close to bodies of water. Huge nests may hold a single egg that will be incubated for little more than a month. The bald eagle population, which was once in danger of going extinct, has miraculously recovered.

In New York State, winter is the best time of year to see them. In December, bald eagles begin to arrive in the state for the winter. Their numbers are at their highest in January and February.

Eagle activity is highest in the morning, from 7 to 9 a.m., and again in the early evening, from 4 to 5 p.m., according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

These six locations in New York State make for great viewing spots, and you might be able to witness firsthand the amazing power and majesty of these birds.

1. Onondaga Lake

Once one of the most contaminated lakes in the country, Onondaga Lake is located close to Syracuse. Nonetheless, it has significantly recovered—much like the bald eagle.

Onondaga Lake was declared unfit for swimming as early as 1940 due to its lengthy history as a landfill for industrial trash and untreated sewage. Eating fish from the lake is dangerous due to PCB and mercury poisoning, even after significant cleanup efforts.

Naturally, eagles don’t adhere to such limitations. Wintertime food foraging is challenging, thus eagles will congregate in areas of abundance whether or not there is mercury pollution.

Long-distance visitors, bald eagles usually arrive in Onondaga Lake in December and remain until the middle of March.

Along with some adults, you could spot a number of juvenile birds near the lake. (Bald eagles don’t get their characteristic white heads until they reach the age of five.)

The largest eagle roosting area in the state during the winter is Onondaga Lake. More than 100 have been tallied perched around the shores in a single day.

2. Mongaup Valley Wildlife Management Area

This over 11,000-acre conservation area is rugged and forested, with all the streams and rivers that bald eagles need to find a suitable winter home.

The management area, which includes four towns in Sullivan County, is situated 75 miles north of New York City and is a world away from it. The state keeps two viewing blinds for observation and photography in the town of Forestburgh.A blind is a kind of camouflage that lets you approach wildlife up close. Here, the Rio Reservoir is seen via a number of “windows” in an open shed.

Here is a map and GPS coordinates for observing eagles in the Delaware Highlands area.

Another great spot to see eagles along the Delaware River is the eagle observation area near Barryville. Situated not far from Route 97, the observation location has disabled accessibility, blind parking, and free parking.

Beginning in January, Eagle Watch bus trips are provided by the Delaware Highlands Conservancy in Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania, on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River. On the excursion, guests can ride a heated bus along the upper basin of the river to look for eagles.

3. Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

Over 10,000 acres make up the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, which is situated near Seneca Falls in the Finger Lakes region. Under the management of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, it was crucial to the reintroduction of bald eagles in the region. The Seneca Falls visitors center, located off U.S. Route 20 East, is the ideal spot to begin your exploration of the refuge.

The refuge was first repopulated with eagles in 1976 using a method known as “hacking.” Young captive-hatched eagles were introduced, and artificial nesting towers were constructed. When they grew older, the idea was for them to use these nest locations.

Eagle hacking has proven to be effective. Every year, they return to the same location where they hatched and were fully fledged. The creative design has also turned the wildlife refuge into a great place for these eye-catching birds to live and observe.

4. Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge

The Iroquois Refuge, the biggest wildlife haven in the state, is situated in the hamlet of Basom in western New York.

Eagles spend the whole year here. Rather of trying to locate a nest, the best method to detect them is to simply sweep the skies. The greatest spots for tourists with keen eyes to spot a bald eagle in flight are the Cayuga and Ringneck Marsh Overlooks.

During the spring, the refuge holds a “Eagle Watch” at the Cayuga Overlook on Saturdays. Views of some of the adult bald eagles and eaglets nesting there are open to visitors of all ages. There’s an ADA-accessible observation platform, spotting scopes, and expert guidance available.

The Atlantic Flyway passes through the more than 10,000 acres that make up the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. This indicates that the region serves as a home and a migration route for hundreds of bird species.

5. Lake George

Situated in the southern Adirondack Mountains, this sizable lake is easily accessible from Albany. Bald eagles are among the numerous bird species that call it home.

It is significant that bald eagles are choosing the Adirondack region as their home base once more. Prior to the New York State Bald Eagle Restoration Project’s intervention, they had completely vanished from the region in the 1960s.

200 nesting eagles were imported by the state in the 1970s from areas where they are common, such as Alaska. Bald eagles returned to the region in astonishing numbers as a result of the “hacking” approach of introducing artificial nests, as had been done at the Montezuma Refuge.

Speaker Heck Island, Kitchel Bay, and Anthony’s Nose Preserve are the greatest places in the Lake George area to watch bald eagles.

6. St. Lawrence River Region

The St. Lawrence River region, which is bordered by Canada, is the primary bald eagle wintering location in New York. This area is home to 20 to 30 of these magnificent birds during the winter.

Wellesley Island State Park is one of the greatest places to see bald eagles along the New York side. The Minna Anthony Common Nature Center, many miles of hiking trails, and three miles of shoreline can all be found in Fineview Park.

Every year, there are more bald eagles wintering and nesting in this region. The specialists at the 1000 Islands Land Trust have made the intriguing discovery that the eagles are, in effect, “acquiring housing from ospreys by force”—that is, assuming control of osprey nests in the area. It was not stated where the expelled ospreys might have gone.

The Act to Protect Bald and Golden Eagles

To locate the best places to start your search for eagle sightings in a national park or reserve, call the visitor center in advance or check online.

Bald eagles should not be disturbed in any manner, much like other wildlife. In particular, try to get them to take off so you may get a picture.

Anyone who follows, catches, molests, or disturbs an eagle faces criminal charges under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The bird itself, as well as its nest, eggs, and feathers, are all protected. Even so, let’s say you discover a feather on the ground.

According to Native American mythology, the bald eagle is the sky’s master. If you happen to spot one soaring overhead, acknowledge its strength and magnificence. And give thanks that, after nearly going extinct from the sky, they were able to make it back to the shores of North America’s rivers, lakes, and streams.

Overview of Six Best Places to See Bald Eagles in New York

Location Time of Year
Onondaga Lake December through March
Mongaup Valley Wildlife Management Area January through March
Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge January through March
Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge Throughout the year, with a special “eagle watch” in the spring.
Lake George December through March
St. Lawrence River Region December through March