Find Bald Eagles at Lake Monroe in Indiana

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eagles

Few experiences compare to the wonder of spotting a bald eagle in flight. Thanks to Indiana’s bald eagle reintroduction program in the 1980s, there are lots of opportunities to see the once-endangered birds in the Hoosier State today.

Lake Monroe near Bloomington is one of the top locations in the state to see the majestic bald eagle, with around 300 documented species of birds in the region as well as year-round resident pairs of bald eagles.

“There are more than 15 active eagle nests on the property, and those pairs have had chicks hatch out so you can see immature eagles on the lake as the weather permits,” says Rex Watters, a wildlife specialist at Lake Monroe. “We also have migrant eagles here who have not yet nested, so your chances of seeing an immature or mature eagle are pretty good. The immature eagles don’t have the white head and tail until their fourth or fifth year. Between 5 and 7 years old, they have the full white head and tail, and at 5 years old, they are ready to mate and reproduce.”

eagles

Photo by Jeff Danielson

Indiana’s Bald Eagle Population

By the early 1990s, bald eagles had been completely gone from Indiana for nearly 100 years due to loss of habitat. The last native eaglet documented to have hatched in Indiana was in 1897. Then, in 1991, the first eaglet was produced as part of Indiana’s bald eagle reintroduction program. That program ran from 1985 through 1989, when eagles were brought to Lake Monroe’s “hack tower” from Alaska and Wisconsin in an effort to rebuild Indiana’s eagle population. “Hacking” refers to the process of taking eaglets from their birthplace before they learn to fly and releasing them in a new area, as eagles tend to consider the first place they fly to be home.

“Generally by February, eagles are on their nest sites. They lay eggs in March and hatch out in April after a 35-day incubation period,” Watters says. “The opportunity to see eagles at Lake Monroe peaks during migration times. January and February are good times if the ice is breaking up because they are able to feed on fish. You have to look at the ice conditions.”

In early spring, as soon as the ice thaws, a flush of birds comes back to feed on frozen dead fish that float to the lake’s surface.

“It’s like a frozen Banquet TV dinner for them,” Watters says. “One time we saw 40 eagles collecting food from the lake.”

November and December can also be good times to spot the eagles, Watters says, though it helps to have a boat for easier viewing.

eagles

Photo by Jeff Danielson

Eagle Watching 101

Jeff Danielson lives on the northern edge of Lake Monroe and has been photographing the birds of prey for eight years.

“I slid sideways into bird and nature photography after I bought my first digital camera in 2001,” Danielson says. “I bought one with excellent zoom to take photos of our son playing college soccer, and I found myself sitting at home with this long lens. Since we live out in the country, the rest followed naturally. Until I got my first good shot of an eagle in 2010, I’d not really thought it possible.”

Danielson says Canadian eagles over-winter in places like Indiana, and that, coupled with the lack of leaf cover, makes winter the prime viewing season from land or boat.

“In late spring and summer, though, the parents are more active hunting and fishing to feed their young,” he says.

When looking for eagles, Danielson seeks out shallow areas where large fish are easily spotted and caught.

“Like most predators, eagles are lazy and looking for easy prey. They couldn’t care less if the hunt is a challenge – they just want to find food for their babies at that point,” he says. “In the fall, you’ll see more mating behaviors and playful soaring. Juveniles are engaged in fun and games and practicing their skills. In June, you might get to see siblings testing their new flying skills with slow, low maneuvering.”

In late January, Lake Monroe hosts its annual Eagle Watch Weekend at Fourwinds Resort and Marina. For details, visit eaglesatlakemonroe.com.

11 Comments

  1. Steve Westlake

    December 10, 2017 at 10:39 pm

    They fly the St Joseph River in northern Indiana. Best time to see them is the fall and especially the winter when the local lakes freeze over. They then fish the river!

  2. David Plantenga

    March 11, 2018 at 9:09 am

    March 2018
    At least a dozen male and female Bald Eagles 1/4 mile down river of Mississinewa Dam near Peru, Indiana . No nests, all fishing. Take binoculars.

  3. Oj barger

    April 4, 2018 at 9:10 pm

    Saw a beautiful one soaring at 37 and Eller today. Carrying food but I couldn’t tell what he had. Gorgeous and so majestic. Truly amazed and do blessed to see.

  4. jmdeur

    April 5, 2018 at 6:25 am

    just saw one the other day while driving from columbus to bloomington. was a bit surprised, but now see why he was there – guess the reintroduction program worked.

  5. Larry Ortel

    April 11, 2018 at 7:46 pm

    My wife and I saw an eagle at Thompson Rd. and Gem Rd. south of New Palestine Sunday 4/8/2018.

  6. Neil

    June 14, 2018 at 10:45 am

    Saw one at the end of April sitting on top of a very tall utility pole in Evansville about 3 to 4 miles from the Ohio River it was unbelievable. Watched for a long time ten it flew southwest. 2 days later one flew over head heading southwest. What an amazing thing to see.

  7. Jonathan

    July 30, 2018 at 12:03 am

    We seen one today off of state road 28 by Ridgeville In Randolph County

  8. Mike Grogan

    August 19, 2018 at 6:53 am

    Saw a Bald Ealgle yesterday at Lake Stonebridge in Fishers. What a beatiful sight, hoping it wasn’t a one and done

  9. Robert

    August 20, 2018 at 10:01 pm

    I saw a bald eagle on Hudson Lake in LaPorte County while fishing on 8-18-18. First one I’ve ever seen on this lake.

  10. Brenda England

    August 29, 2018 at 2:08 pm

    First I didnt know that u could report where u seen an eagle before I stumbled on to this page. But August 4, 2018, I seen one in a tree by my step dads house right on US 31in Pleasant View addition in Edinburgh Ind. I seen it land then ran out with my phone and video it untill it flew off. What a BEAUTIFUL sight seeing him land in that tree and take back off. Especially in an Addition.

  11. Debra Hall

    September 10, 2018 at 9:57 pm

    An eagle flew over my car today as I was driving on IN58 just south of Ogilville. It was not terribly high up and just soared in front of me. First time I’ve seen an eagle in the wild.

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