Heart of Utah: Become a bird nerd by spotting bald eagles this February

Feb 17, 2021, 10:07 AM | Updated: Apr 26, 2021, 6:40 pm

This story about Bald Eagles in Utah is part of KSL NewsRadio’s ongoing Heart of Utah program to highlight good news around the state that airs Fridays.

FARMINGTON, Utah — February is a great month to see bald eagles and other majestic birds in Utah.

And you and your family may get hooked into the fascinating bird world and Utah’s outdoors.

Utah: Where bald eagles and other big birds come for winter

When it gets colder up in Canada and to the north of us, bald eagles and other raptors and great birds come south, and they stop here.

“Kind of like traffic jams would be in Yellowstone for bears, we kind of have eagle jams out here at the wetlands,” said Billy Fenimore, the director of the Eccles Wildlife Education Center in Farmington.

He connects the community with nature.

“We still have some open pockets of water, so birds and eagles can continue now to prey on fish. And also ducks, because they also go after ducks and so forth. So we have this habitat which is like kind of like a grocery store for them,” he explained.

And it’s easier to go grocery shopping because the wetland managers at Farmington Bay manage the water level. When they lower it, the carp are slightly exposed. The gulls go after the carp, and the eagles take notice.

Fenimore said February is a perfect time to grab the binoculars or scope and go take a look. Who knows, one could be your hook bird, or that spark that starts a lifetime of birding and bird watching.

Birds of a feather

Fenimore saw his first bald eagle at Hawk Ridge in Pennsylvania when he was young.

“I didn’t expect to see one, but it was captivating. It’s those talents, that beak — it was really neat just to see it soaring, and it didn’t have a real care in the world,” he said.

Fenimore said bring snacks and warm clothes but do short trips with young kids. He is based in Farmington and he’s more than happy to show people around. Morgan County has good spots for bird watching. Cedar City, Fountain Green, Bear Lake, Willard Bay…the division of wildlife resources has a whole list of spots where birds have been known to roost.

For us along the Wasatch Front, the DWR said the best place to look is:

  • In the big cottonwood trees at Rendezvous Beach on the south end of Bear Lake.
  • In trees along the Blacksmith Fork River east of Hyrum.
  • In trees along the Weber River near Croydon and just below Echo Reservoir.
  • Along the road leading to Lost Creek Reservoir. The reservoir is north of Croydon.
  • Willard Bay Reservoir west of Willard. You can often see eagles in trees near the reservoir and on the iced-capped reservoir itself.
  • Compton’s Knoll at the Salt Creek Waterfowl Management Area west of Corinne. You can view bald eagles and other wildlife from the Compton’s Knoll viewing area on the northeast side of the WMA. The rest of the WMA is closed to visitors.
  • The Eccles Wildlife Education Center at the Farmington Bay WMA west of Farmington. You can often see eagles on the portion of the WMA near the center. If you spot an eagle on the WMA, please remember not to stop your vehicle in the middle of the road. Instead, pull off to the side of the road so other vehicles can pass.

It could lead to a future of birding or bird watching and enjoying the beautiful Utah outdoors.

“Everybody can be kind of bird nerdy together,” said Fenimore.

You might want to try to get a glimpse in the next week or two. The eagles may be done shopping and get ready to fly off again.

The national bird debate

P.S. We had to ask him, would we be this excited about turkeys if Benjamin Franklin had succeeded in making the turkey our national bird? Here’s what he said:

“You know, it’s funny because when turkeys are going through their breeding season, you know they have these colors or heads turn different colors: red, whites and blues, and that’s part of what Ben Franklin saw. So in the spring season you know when they see a hen, they get excited and there are different colors and trying to impress her, and that’s part of the red, white and blue, our flag, and that’s part of why he thought it could have been our national bird instead.”

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Heart of Utah: Become a bird nerd by spotting bald eagles this February