Bald eagles are flying back up to Minnesota – earlier than normal

Bald eagles that left for the winter are on their way back.

Bald eagles are already flying back up to Minnesota, and you'll be able to see plenty of them in the coming weeks.

Eagles usually migrate north again when the ice melts. And with a warm February, that's already happening – and small groups of the raptors have already been spotted along the Minnesota River, the DNR said Monday.

This is one or two weeks earlier than usual.

"Eagles tend to vary their migration routes, so it’s hard to say exactly where the eagles are right now," DNR regional Nongame Wildlife specialist Lisa Gelvin-Innvaer explained in the news release. But southern Minnesota residents could start seeing them in larger numbers in the next couple of weeks.

The biggest migrations are usually along the Minnesota River corridor, at the North Shore, and then near Lake Pepin.

And not all eagles go south for the winter, Gelvin-Innvaer explained. Some eagle pairs will stay up north if they can find open water, especially if it's a milder winter.

The DNR has a summer and winter viewing map for bald eagles in Minnesota.

The bald eagle's comeback

The bald eagle's recovery from endangered status is one of America’s greatest wildlife success stories.

Minnesota has more than 1,300 active nests, the DNR estimates, and only two states – Florida and Alaska – have more of the raptors.

The DNR says a big boost has been donations to the Nongame Wildlife Program through the checkoff option on Minnesota's tax forms. Through that option, money has been used to pay for research, surveys and education for more than 900 animal species. Bald eagles, peregrine falcons and trumpeter swans were all nearly gone from Minnesota when that program started 40 years ago – now, each has a strong foothold in Minnesota.

You can learn more about bald eagles – and get an up-close look at one – by visiting the National Eagle Center in Wabasha.

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