Bayview, Idaho – It’s just about time to polish your binoculars and get the camera gear ready in anticipation of winter eagle watching in North Idaho. Bald Eagles and their fans have been known to gather near Higgin’s Point just east of Coeur d’Alene, but other great spots to view the national bird is in Bayview or Sandpoint, at opposite ends of Idaho’s Lake Pend Oreille.
Now, you really don’t need any equipment to watch the eagles. Their bright white heads make it easy to spot them with the naked eye, as they perch high up in the trees looking for their next meal. They divebomb for Kokanee Salmon and litter the shoreline with piles of fish bones and scales. Leftover fish carcasses are a sure indicator that you’ve found a good eagle-watching spot.
Of course, binoculars are great for close-up viewing, but the eagles are usually so plentiful and focused on feeding that you are almost guaranteed to see a few.
An adult Bald Eagle weighs between 10 and 12 pounds, with female eagles being slightly larger than males. It’s believed eagles mate for life and in the wild, they can live to be in their late teens, though some have lived into their 20s.
They hunt live prey – smaller mammals, fish, snakes, other birds – but they are opportunistic eaters and don’t turn their majestic beaks up at roadkill or dead livestock. However large and powerful they appear, they can only fly off with about 3-4 pounds in their talons.
The best birdwatching times are dawn and dusk, and to gain a great viewpoint you may consider a commercial cruise out on the lake. Lake Pend Oreille Cruises depart from Sandpoint, where the special eagle watching cruise takes you out around the Four Islands of Hope and the Hope Peninsula. That cruise also goes by Pearl Island, which is a bald eagle sanctuary with a spectacular view.
Book your cruise tickets online as soon as you can, because the cruises quickly fill up or even sell out once the eagles begin to show up around Christmas.
In Bayview, stick around for lunch at The Captain’s Wheel Resort, or head out to Farragut State Park, which was home to a U.S. Naval Training Base during World War II. The Museum at The Brig is dedicated to the military history of Farragut, including the time the area served as a German prisoner of war camp.