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Keep your eyes peeled: Bald eagles returning to MN in large numbers

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The next few weeks could be prime time for any Minnesotan interested in seeing an eagle.

The DNR says that with the melting ice and opening water, bald eagles are flying back to Minnesota for their spring migration.

“Ice is breaking up along the rivers, so it’s definitely time for folks to keep their eyes out,” said Lisa Gelvin-Innvaer, DNR regional nongame wildlife specialist.

Bald eagles have been making a steady comeback since the population hit dangerously low levels in the 1960s. In 1963, there were only 487 nesting pairs in the entire country, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says.

Now, after a number of regulations were enacted meant to protect the birds, there are more than 1,500 nests in Minnesota alone, the DNR says.

The North Star State has the third-largest bald eagle population in the U.S., behind Florida and Alaska.

Where can you see bald eagles?

“Eagle migration hotspots are a bit of a moving target, so it’s hard to say where the eagles are right now,” Gelvin-Innvaer said. “In Minnesota, the biggest migrations tend to be along the Minnesota River corridor, the north shore of Lake Superior, and around Lake Pepin in southeastern Minnesota.”

Here's a seasonal viewing map from the Minnesota Ornithologists' Union. And you can also look at a summer viewing map, courtesy of the DNR.

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Bald eagles start spring migration back to Minnesota

The birds are moving home in large numbers over the next few weeks, and “it’s definitely time for folks to keep their eyes out," says a DNR specialist. Wildlife experts say eagles are migrating a little earlier than usual, likely because of the mild winter.