Eagles in Alaska: Your Guide to Spotting These Majestic Birds




Eagles in Alaska

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If you’re a bird lover or a wildlife enthusiast, then Alaska is a must-visit destination for you. With its diverse landscapes, Alaska is home to a variety of bird species, including eagles. Alaska is known for its large populations of eagles, and it’s a great place to see them in their natural habitat.

There are four types of eagles that can be found in Alaska: the bald eagle, golden eagle, white-tailed eagle, and Steller’s sea-eagle. The bald eagle is the most common and can be seen throughout the state, while the other three species are rare or accidental sightings. Eagles in Alaska are known for their impressive size, with wingspans that can reach up to 7 feet.

Key Takeaways

  • Alaska is home to four types of eagles, with the bald eagle being the most common.
  • Eagles in Alaska can be found in a variety of habitats and feed on a variety of prey.
  • Winter is a great time to see eagles in Alaska, as many migrate to the southern parts of the state in search of food.

Eagles in Alaska

Alaska is home to a diverse range of bird species, including several types of eagles. The most common species of eagle found in Alaska is the bald eagle, which is also the state bird. These majestic birds of prey can be seen throughout Alaska, from the coastal regions to the interior.

Alaska is also home to the golden eagle. While not as well-known as their bald counterparts, golden eagles are still a sight to behold. These birds of prey are larger and more powerful than bald eagles, with a wingspan of up to 7 feet. Golden eagles can be found throughout Alaska, but are most commonly seen in the interior regions of the state.

Both bald and golden eagles are considered raptors, which means they are birds of prey that hunt and feed on other animals. They are both apex predators, meaning they are at the top of the food chain in their respective ecosystems.

If you’re interested in seeing eagles in Alaska, there are several places where you’re likely to spot them. The best time to see eagles is during the winter months, when they congregate near open water to feed on fish. Some of the best places to see eagles in Alaska include:

  • Haines: This small town in Southeast Alaska is known as the “Valley of the Eagles” due to the large number of bald eagles that congregate there each winter.
  • Homer: This coastal town on the Kenai Peninsula is home to the Homer Spit, a long stretch of land that juts out into Kachemak Bay. During the winter months, eagles can often be seen perched in the trees along the Spit.
  • Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve: This preserve, located near Haines, is home to the largest concentration of bald eagles in the world. During the winter months, thousands of eagles can be seen feeding on salmon in the Chilkat River.
  • Denali National Park: located in Alaska’s interior, is a breathtaking wilderness paradise renowned for its diverse wildlife and awe-inspiring landscapes. While exploring this iconic park, visitors have the chance to spot the majestic Bald Eagles soaring gracefully through the skies.

Top Locations for Bald Eagle Viewing

LocationSpecific AreaTime of YearFeaturesAlaska Chilkat Bald Eagle PreserveMile 8-31, Haines HighwayOctober-FebruaryLargest gathering of bald eagles, late run of chum salmonTurnagain ArmSouth of GirdwoodMay, early June, late summerVast tide flats attract eagles during fish runsKenai RiverSterling HighwayJuly-SeptemberPrime time for salmon runs, many eagles along the riverRoad System Boat HarborsWhittier, Homer, Seward, Valdez WaterfrontsYear-roundEagles are common, especially at the Homer SpitSoutheast Alaska and Prince William SoundMarine Tours or Day TripsYear-roundCoastal temperate rain forest is prime eagle habitatAlaska ZooSouth AnchorageYear-roundEagles and golden eagles under human careBird Learning & Treatment CenterAbove Potters MarshContact for detailsDisplays eagles during educational programsAmerican Bald Eagle FoundationHainesEarly NovemberHosts annual Alaska Bald Eagle FestivalAmerican Raptor CenterSitkaYear-roundProvides medical care for injured birdsAlaska Rainforest SanctuaryKetchikanSummer monthsHosts program from Alaska Raptor CenterCommunity LandfillsThroughout AlaskaYear-roundEagles are attracted to these areas for easy food source

Eagle Species Found in Alaska

Alaska is home to four species of eagles, each with its unique characteristics and habitats. In this section, we’ll take a closer look at each of these species: Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, White-Tailed Eagles, and Steller’s Sea Eagles.

Bald Eagles

Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus Leucocephalus) are the most common eagle species in Alaska, with an estimated population of 30,000 birds. These majestic birds are found throughout the state, but they are most abundant in Southeast Alaska, Prince William Sound, Southcentral coastal zones, Kodiak Island, and down the Alaska Peninsula to the Aleutian Chain.

Bald Eagles have a wingspan of up to 7.5 feet (2.3 m) and typically weigh between 8 to 14 pounds (3.6 – 6.4 kg). They are easily recognizable by their white head and tail feathers, dark brown body, and hooked beak.

Golden Eagles

Golden Eagles (Aquila Chrysaetos) are another resident species in Alaska, with a population of around 2,000 birds. These eagles are found throughout the state, but they are most commonly seen in the Interior and Arctic regions.

Golden Eagles are larger than Bald Eagles, with a wingspan of up to 8 feet (2.4 m) and a weight of up to 15 pounds (6.8 kg). They have dark brown feathers with a golden sheen on their head and neck.

White-Tailed Eagles

White-Tailed Eagles (Haliaeetus Albicilla) are rare vagrants from Asia, and they are not spotted very often in Alaska. These eagles are larger than Bald Eagles, with a wingspan of up to 9 feet (2.7 m) and a weight of up to 20 pounds (9.1 kg).

White-Tailed Eagles have a white tail and head, dark brown body, and a massive, powerful beak. They are typically found in coastal areas and near large bodies of water.

Steller’s Sea Eagle

Steller’s Sea Eagles (Haliaeetus Pelagicus) are also rare vagrants from Asia, and they are not spotted very often in Alaska. These eagles are the largest eagle species in the world, with a wingspan of up to 8 feet (2.4 m) and a weight of up to 20 pounds (9.1 kg).

Steller’s Sea Eagles have a distinctive white head and neck, dark brown body, and a massive, powerful beak. They are typically found near the coast and feed primarily on fish.

Eagle Habitats in Alaska

Alaska is home to the largest population of bald eagles in the United States, estimated at around 30,000 birds. These majestic creatures can be found in a variety of habitats throughout the state, including forests, rivers, lakes, cliffs, bodies of water, marshes, and coastlines.

Nesting Sites

Bald eagles typically build their nests in tall trees, usually near bodies of water where they can find food. You can often spot their massive nests, which can be up to 10 feet wide and weigh up to 2,000 pounds, high up in the trees along rivers and lakeshores. Look for large sticks and branches woven together to form a sturdy platform.

Feeding Grounds

Bald eagles are opportunistic feeders and will eat whatever is available in their environment. Their favorite food is fish, and they prefer large ones like trout and salmon. You can often find them perched on a tree branch or soaring overhead, scanning the water below for their next meal.

Bald eagles will also eat small mammals, birds, and carrion. They will often scavenge for food along the coastline, where they can find dead fish and other animals washed up on the shore.

Southeast Alaska, Prince William Sound, Southcentral coastal zones, Kodiak Island, and the Alaska Peninsula to the Aleutian Chain are all great places to spot these threatened and endangered species. Keep an eye out for their distinctive white heads and tails and listen for their high-pitched calls.

Eagle Diets in Alaska

If you’re interested in observing eagles in Alaska, it’s important to know what they eat. Eagles are carnivores and primarily feed on fish, which make up the majority of their diet. You can find them at the mouth of salmon streams, such as Ward Cove, Herring Cove, and Ketchikan Creek, where salmon pass through from April through September.

Eagles also consume carrion, which they often find along roads or at landfills. They are also known to prey on waterfowl, shorebirds, colonial waterbirds, and small mammals such as rabbits, squirrels, and hares and even mountain goats.

Seals are another important food source for eagles, especially during the winter months when other prey is scarce. Eagles will also scavenge from other predators, such as bears, and will sometimes steal food from other birds, such as ospreys.

Moose are not a typical food source for eagles, but they have been known to prey on young or weakened moose. However, this is a rare occurrence and not a significant part of their diet.

Eagle Migration

Eagles in Alaska are migratory, which means they move from one place to another depending on the time of year. During the winter months, eagles in Alaska head south to find food and warmer temperatures. In the summer months, they return to Alaska to breed and raise their young.

The migratory patterns of eagles in Alaska are fascinating to watch. Some eagles travel as far as Asia, Canada, and Europe during the winter months. They follow food sources and warmer temperatures, making stops along the way to rest and refuel. During the summer months, eagles return to Alaska to take advantage of the abundant food sources and ideal breeding conditions.

If you’re interested in seeing eagles during their migration, there are several places in Alaska where you can go. The state’s 30,000 eagles generally concentrate in Southeast Alaska, Prince William Sound, Southcentral coastal zones, Kodiak Island, and down the Alaska Peninsula to the Aleutian Chain. These striking birds raise their young in large, treetop nests and have a habit of forming noisy congregations near fish runs (and garbage dumps!).


What’s the distinguishing characteristic of immature bald eagles compared to adult bald eagles?

Immature bald eagles lack the iconic white head and tail of the adult birds. Instead, immature birds have a dark brown plumage, and it isn’t until they reach about 4 to 5 years old that they attain the adult plumage, signified by a white head and bright yellow beak.

Are there places in Alaska known for having a high concentration of bald eagles?

Yes, the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve is one such place. Situated along the Chilkat River, this preserve sees the largest gathering of bald eagles in the world. Eagles, both adult and immature, congregate here, especially during late fall to feed on a late run of chum salmon.

How are bald eagle nests typically constructed and where can they be found?

Nesting eagles, build nests that are often large structures, built in tall trees close to bodies of water. Eagles use twigs, grass, moss, and feathers for nest building. Nests are reused and added to each year, with some becoming incredibly large over time. Reproduction Bald eagles will come back to the same nest annually. In Alaska, prime nest trees can be spotted in areas like the Kenai River, Prince William Sound, and the Copper River Delta.

What role does the Alaska Raptor Center play in the conservation of eagles in Alaska?

The Alaska Raptor Center plays a crucial role in the preservation of eagle species. They provide medical care to injured birds, including eagles, and long-term care for those that cannot be released back into the wild. Their rehabilitation and educational programs serve to raise awareness about these majestic and endangered species and their natural habitats.

Can you tell us more about the breeding season and reproduction process of bald eagles in Alaska?

Bald eagles mate for life and return to the same nest sites each year. The breeding season typically begins in early spring. The female eagle lays one to three eggs, and both parents share in the incubation. After about 35 days, the eggs hatch. The young birds, or eaglets, fledge the nest in about 10-12 weeks but continue to be cared for by their parents until they can survive independently.

Are there wintering eagles in Alaska?

Yes, Alaska does indeed serve as a wintering location for certain eagle populations. For example, the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, located in Southeast Alaska along the Chilkat River, is a significant wintering site for bald eagles. This preserve witnesses a large congregation of these majestic birds each fall and winter. Thousands of eagles gather here to feast on late runs of chum salmon, which linger deep into the winter months.

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