Winter is the prime season for bald eagle watching throughout Oklahoma. From weekend events and tours to online guides and more, it’s easy to learn the basics in spotting our country’s national bird in the Sooner State. Beginning in late November of each year, anywhere from 800-2,000 bald eagles migrate to Oklahoma from their northern breeding grounds and stay through March.
Where to find bald eagles in Oklahoma
Typically, bald eagles are found near lakes and rivers due to their preferred diet of fish, and according to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the highest populations are found at the following lakes: Kaw, Keystone, Texoma, Tenkiller, Ft. Gibson, Grand, Canton, Great Salt Plains, Tishomingo and Spavinaw. Lake conditions change daily, which affects the number of bald eagles at each location, so call ahead to your preferred lake or state park to find out the eagle watch conditions for the day!
What to bring
First and foremost, dress for the weather! Winter days in Oklahoma can range from a comfortable 60 degrees to below zero, so check the weather conditions for the day and dress appropriately in layers and wear boots or closed-toe shoes for venturing out in nature.
A pair of binoculars or a spotting scope is ideal for spotting eagles. While you may be able to easily spot them with the naked eye, nothing beats seeing the detail of these miraculous birds!
A camera with a telephoto lens will help you capture photographs from afar.
A quiet voice! Keep noises to a minimum when viewing eagles, as many eagles will spend the energy they would normally use hunting fleeing noises from humans.
A snack and beverage will keep you sustained while searching for eagles. Plan to spend an hour or two or more to find the best spot, get settled and start spotting.
When to view
At most Oklahoma lakes, eagles are best viewed between sunrise and 11 a.m., when they are feeding along the riverbanks and lakes; however, it’s not uncommon to spot them soaring the skies throughout the afternoon on a crisp, clear day.
Bald eagles begin their journey to Oklahoma in mid-to-late-November and fly until they find unfrozen lakes and rivers, which means the populations largely depend on how cold and harsh the winter is for our northern neighbors! December, January and February are the best months to spot the winged beauty, as they begin their journey back north beginning in early March.
Inclement weather can have an impact on eagle viewing. Check the weather before heading out and again, contact your lake or state park of choice for updated information.
Upcoming eagle watching events
- Lake Thunderbird State Park, Norman: Jan. 6 and 20 and Feb. 4 and 18. Contact: 405-321-4633
- Quartz Mountain Nature Park, Altus: Jan. 7, 8, 14, 22. Contact: 580-563-2238
- Arcadia Lake, Oklahoma City: Jan. 8, 9 and 10. Contact: 405-216-7471
- Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge, Jet: Jan. 6, 7, 12, 14. Contact: 580-626-4794
- Sequoyah State Park, Hulbert: Jan. 14 and 28. Contact: 918-772-2108
- Chickasaw National Recreation Area, Sulphur: Jan. 21. Contact: 580-622-7234
- Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge and Tenkiller State Park, Vian: Jan. 21, 28 and Feb. 4, 11, 18, 25. Contact: 918-489-5641
- Kaw Lake, Kaw: Jan. 21. Contact: 580-762-9494
- Jenks: Jan. 28. Contact: tulsaaudubon.org
- Washita National Wildlife Refuge, Clinton: Wildlife tour Jan. 14. Contact: 580-664-2205
- Beavers Bend State Park, Broken Bow: Daily viewing areas. Contact: 580-494-6556
- Tishomingo National Wildlife Refuge: Self-guided tours. Contact: 580-371-2402