If you’ve visited Eagle Ridge Resort before, you would’ve run into our full-term guests: a pair of bald eagles and their eaglets. Previous owners named the resort when they saw two magnificent bald eagles nesting in a tall white pine right by cabin six. The eagle, which serves as a symbol for our country and freedom, soon became a symbol for the resort.
Year after year, we welcome back the pair as Minnesota warms up, celebrate the birth of eaglets, and admire their beauty as they soar high up in the sky, then dive back down to snatch a fish. Come November, we part ways and wish them a safe winter. This year, however, we started wondering. Where exactly do these bald eagles go during winter season? Do they nest in southern states like Wood Ducks? Do they fly way south to Central America as Baltimore Orioles do?
Subsequently, we talked to bird experts and consulted the internet to solve the mystery. Short answer: Northern Minnesota eagles don’t fly far. Most of them brave the winter around Red Wing and Wabasha areas near the Mississippi River where the current of the inflowing Chippewa River maintains open water throughout the winter.
Eagle migration is generally connected to food sources, so when lakes and streams freeze or prey animals hibernate, the eagles migrate south to find open water and food. Bald eagle wintering grounds typically contain open water, ample food, limited human disturbance, and protective roosting sites. Bald eagles migrate alone but may congregate by the hundreds at communal feeding sites and roosts.
But ice will eventually thaw, and bald eagles will typically migrate back to Eagle Ridge Resort by February. By the time Eagle Ridge Resort opens for 2017 season, guests can see the adults bringing fish to the juvenile eaglets, and by August you can watch the first flights of those juveniles!
So until then, we grab our handkerchief and bid our Eagle family a safe flight.