Bald eagles are majestic and powerful birds that were initially dubbed ‘bald’ due to their white heads (as bald comes from balde, old English for white). The Bald eagle is the USA’s national bird and has become a symbol of strength, courage and wisdom. Most probably realise that the Bald eagle lives in the USA, but where else do Bald eagles live?
Bald eagles live in every US state except Hawaii. In Canada, Bald eagles nest in every province except most of Nunavut and northern Quebec. Alaska is the most abundant region of Bald eagles, where roughly half the entire population live. Bald eagles live as far south as northern Mexico, in the Chihuahuan desert.
The Bald eagle population is increasing rapidly and almost quadrupled between 2009 and 2021. In Alaska, there are some 70,000 birds. British Columbia is probably the next most populated region with 20,000 to 30,000 birds. Bald eagles are common all year round on the East and West coasts, the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River.
Read on to learn more about where these fantastic birds of prey live, and where you can go to see them!
Close up of a bald eagle
The bald eagle’s range spans most of Canada and Alaska, all 48 of the contiguous United States and northern Mexico.
In Canada, Bald eagles inhabit every province except Nunavut. They are also rare in northern Quebec and the upper Yukon. There are few Bald eagles in Mexico, perhaps around 20 or so individuals, though these numbers increase during migration.
Bald eagles live in every US state except Hawaii.
The top 5 states with the highest estimated populations of Bald eagles are as follows:
In the winter, the proportions of Bald eagles in US states change dramatically. For example, numbers in Kansas, Illinois, Colorado and Arkansas can triple during migration.
While Alaska has always had the lion’s share of North American Bald eagles, their numbers in the lower 48 states are climbing rapidly. Fascinatingly, Bald eagle populations in the lower 48 states were estimated to be just around 72,000 in 2009. As of 2021, they have more than quadrupled to approximately 315,700.
Bald Eagles are most common in Alaska
Bald eagles inhabit much of Canada below its icy Nunavut region and northern Quebec.
Most Canadian Bald eagles live in coastal British Columbia (around 20,000 to 30,000 birds), with inland populations found across the country, in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Significant populations of Bald eagles are also found in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and northern Ontario.
Bald eagles generally prefer forested, mountainous or semi-mountainous habitats near estuaries, lakes, reservoirs, rivers and the coast.
While Bald eagles tend to nest high up in the trees, some also build nests on the ground. Ground nests are more common near the coast or in arid environments with few trees, including much of Alaska, the Californian islands and parts of Canada.
Bald eagles prefer large, mature trees but can make nests in dead trees, providing that they’re strong and sturdy. Habitats are selected on the basis of food abundance above all else.
Bald eagle perched in a forest
In their most populous regions, Bald eagles are a fairly common sight. In some Alaskan towns, such as Unalaska, Bald eagles are so common that they’re deemed a nuisance or even pests!
In winter, Bald eagles are easy to spot along the north Mississippi River and on the east and west coasts. It’s not uncommon to see small flocks of 5 to 20 Bald eagles during winter migrations.
In addition, Bald eagle sightings have been made in many major cities, including in New York, where a Bald eagle named Rover has built a fondness for Central Park! Bald eagle sightings are becoming more common in rather unusual places. For example, in February 2022, two Bald eagles stopped in Dallas, Texas, whereas winter sightings in northern Mexico and New Mexico are also becoming more common.
A flock of Bald eagles, perched in a tree
Bald eagles are most common in Alaska, followed by British Columbia in Canada. Alaska is home to 40,000 to 50,000 birds, whereas British Columbia is home to around 20,000 to 30,000 birds.
One of the most popular Bald eagle watching spots in Alaska is Alaska Chilkat Eagle Preserve, which is home to around 4,000 birds during the winter.
In the lower 48 states, Klamath Basin (Oregon and California), Starved Rock State Park (Illinois), Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge (Florida), Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge (Missouri), Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge (Utah) and North Platte National Wildlife Refuge (Nebraska) are popular for eagle watching.
In Canada, the Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park west side of the Squamish River is one of the best places to spot Bald eagles in the world.
A bald eagle, soaring through the skies of the Alaska Chilkat Eagle Preserve
Bald eagles have complex migratory patterns, but they still live throughout much of North America in the winter, as well as northern Mexico.
In the Great Lakes region and eastern Canada, Bald eagles often migrate along the Mississippi River or down the eastern seaboard. On the Pacific Northwest coast, Bald eagles sometimes head north in winter, rather than south.
States along the Mississippi river see some of the most significant increases in Bald eagle numbers during winter, including Kansas, Illinois, Colorado, Missouri and Arkansas. Populations in Texas, New Mexico and northern Mexico also increase during the winter.
Bald eagle diving for prey
During summer, Bald eagle populations are likely more concentrated in the northernmost states and Canada.
Many Bald eagles stay in Alaska, Canada and northern regions all year round - Bald eagles migrate for the purposes of food rather than warmth. In fact, Bald eagles sometimes migrate north during hot summers.
Bald eagles are primarily diurnal, meaning that they sleep at night, though some maintain more nocturnal sleeping patterns.
Bald eagles sleep either in their large nests or on a treetop perch at night. Communal roosting has been observed in the winter, particularly amongst juveniles.
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