Bald Eagles

The Bald Eagle is the official symbol of the United State. The choice of this bird was deplored by Benjamin Franklin who said it had “bad moral character” because it sometimes steals food from Osprey. He preferred the turkey! continue reading…

Golden Eagles

Golden Eagles are nearly the same size as Bald Eagles and, although their plumages differ, they are often confused by untrained observers… continue reading

Where to go for eagle watching :

Lower Columbia adult Bald Eagle.
Photo by Lyn Topinka.

LOWER COLUMBIA RIVER has large numbers of eagles from mid-Dec. to mid-May. Drive Hwy 30 between Kappa and Astoria at low tide and scan the mudflats, posts, and pilings with binoculars or spotting scope.

Sauvie Island pair. Photo by Lyn Topinka.

SAUVIE ISLAND hosts abundant eagles from Nov. – April. The peak there is at the end of Dec.

KLAMATH BASIN has hundreds eagles in mid-Feb; eagles are abundant Dec. through March. Visit Tulelake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges and Klamath Wildlife Management Area for detailed directions to areas of current use.

HARNEY BASIN  Migrant bald eagles are abundant late Feb or early Mar.; eagles are present Feb. to mid-April. Drive Hwy 20 east from burns towards Buchanan and scan the meadows and flooded fields on both sides of the road with binoculars or spotting scope. Explore other roads in the basin and with the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Golden Eagle adult

UPPER CROOKED RIVER has numerous eagles at the peak (late Feb. to mid-March). Eagles are present from mid Jan. to late March). Drive State Hwy. 380 between Prineville Reservoir and Paulina. Scan the pastures on both sides of the road, especially near mileposts 36-45.

Sub-adult Bald Eagle

JOHN DAY RIVER area can host many eagles. Drive Hwy 26 from Prairie City west to Picture Gorge then take State Hwy 19 to Service Creek. Scan Ponderosa Pines Pines, Cottonwoods, and power poles.

HIGHWAY 20 BETWEEN BROTHERS AND HAMPTON starting in March and into April numerous Bald and Golden Eagles and other raptors can be observed perched on the power poles and in the irrigated fields just as the ground squirrels are emerging in the Spring.

TWILIGHT EAGLE SANCTUARY on the south shore of the Columbia River  is specifically dedicated to the protection of habitat for a pair of Bald Eagles. It is accessible year-round and has a viewing platform. Travel east from Astoria on Hwy 30. Between mile markers 88 and 87, turn north on Burnside Rd. Find the viewing area on the river side of the road.

Story of the Twilight Eagle Sanctuary

In July of 1988, the Oregon Eagle Foundation learned that the last stand of large trees in the nesting territory of the Twilight Creek Bald Eagle pair was scheduled for logging. That pair was nesting in a lone old-growth snag that was left when an adjacent stand was clearcut 14 years prior. The stand threatened with logging was known to be important as perching and roosting habitat for that nesting pair as well as other Bald Eagles that live on the lower river. The stand to be logged was probably the best place for the nesting pair to build a new nest when their current nest tree became unsuitable for nesting.

OEF contacted the landowner, Cavenham Forest Industries, and expressed concern about the loss of that important habitat. Cavenham expressed a willingness to sell the property rather than log it if a willing buyer could be found. The property was 15.3 forested acres situated between the Columbia River, Highway 30, and the Twilight Swamp wetlands. Cavenham wanted $50,000 for the land and timber.

On August 12th of that year, OEF met with a group of Clatsop County citizens. That informal gathering resulted in an OEF commitment to  purchase the property and the formation of the Lower Columbia Eagle Task Force (LCETF) to spearhead the fundraising effort.

The first deadline was for a $5,000 down payment due on September 30th. That deadline was met primarily due to the efforts of the students and faculty of Gearhart Elementary School.

After making the down payment, LCETF had until June 30th 1989 to gather the remaining $45,000. While seeking those funds from a variety of sources, they also worked with Clatsop County to add 12 acres of county owned wetland to the sanctuary. That 12-acre parcel made the Bald Eagle Sanctuary concept complete. The trees providing places for perching, roosting, and future nesting and the wetlands providing a place for the eagles to hunt.

In March 1989, LCETF kicked off the final months of fundraising with an Eagle Day celebration. That event signified the local importance if the project both to Bald Eagles of the lower Columbia River and to the local community. Again, the contributions of the children were an inspiration.

Although fundraising proceeded at a satisfactory rate through the spring, it became apparent that June 30th would arrive too soon. Consequently, Cavenham accepted $10,000 more in earnest money and extended the deadline for payment of the $35,000 balance to December 30th.

In the meantime, the Task Force realized that hidden and unexpected costs were increasing the real cost of the project to nearly $67,000. As the December 30th deadline approached, a shortfall of $5,000 was anticipated. Again, Cavenham helped the cause, this time by lowering the cost to $45,000…in essence contributing the final $5,000.

The land was purchased on December 30th 1989. Design and construction of a viewing deck was completed during the summer and early fall of 1990. The Task Force dedicated the Sanctuary at an opening ceremony on October 13th. In addition, the observation deck was dedicated to local environmentalist and logger Bob “Kewpie” Ziak, a staunch supporter of saving places for eagles and other wildlife until his death in August of 1990.

In the following spring, the Twilight Bald Eagles were observed constructing a new nest in a large, live hemlock in the Sanctuary. They raised two young in 1991, their first success since 1986 and their first pair of young since 1983.  However, later that year the new nest tree blew down. So the pair moved back to the initial snag in 1992 and hatched one young.

In addition to providing a home for the eagles and their young, the Sanctuary has “created an awareness of the lower river that wasn’t there before,” said Neil Maine, LCETF member. The observation platform and the signs explaining the ecology of the Twilight eagles, wetlands, and the lower river are well used. All who donated their time, money, energy, and enthusiasm to make the Twilight Eagle Sanctuary a reality were justifiably proud of their contribution to this happy ending and new beginning.

Other places to learn about and observe eagles in Oregon are at two annual conferences :

Winter Wings Festival in Klamath Falls ; annually in February. The Klamath Basin Audubon Society (KBAS) produces the annual Winter Wings Festival celebrating the largest wintering population of bald eagles in the lower 48 states as well as the abundance of all the birds that make the Klamath Basin home (see Festival will be celebrating its 40th year in 2019.

Eagle Watch Festival near Madras; annually in February.

The 24th annual Eagle Watch celebration returns Feb. 23-24, 2019 to Round Butte Overlook Park, 10 miles west of Madras. The event features activities that explore the natural and cultural significance of eagles and other raptors that inhabit the Lake Billy Chinook area. This free, family-friendly two-day festival is a collaboration between Oregon Parks and Recreation Dept, the USDA Forest Service/Crooked River Grasslands, Portland Gas & Electric, and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.  Hours are 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 23 and 10 a.m.- 3:30 p.m., on Sunday, Feb. 24.

An estimated 11 pairs of bald eagles and nine pairs of golden eagles live in the wilds surrounding Lake Billy Chinook. With migratory eagles joining the resident population in late winter, the area is an important gathering spot for eagles in Oregon.

Eagle Recognition

Sub adult Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles can often be confused, even by seasoned birdwatchers. Below are some guides to help you learn the differences.

Threats to Eagles

Primary causes of eagle mortality are trauma (collisions), electrocution, shooting and poisoning. Read an in-depth article at:

Golden Eagle tempting fate
Electrocuted sub-adult Bald Eagle
Golden Eagle struck by a vehicle
Golden Eaglet dying from secondary poisoning from ingested prey.