Last Updated on November 13, 2021
Did you know that the largest bald eagle migration in the world happens in British Columbia?
During this annual rite of nature, over 35,000 eagles pass through the lower Fraser Valley annually from late October until February. The peak time for eagle spotting is in the middle of December. We love taking the time to honor the majestic bald eagle and the cycle of the salmon.
Eagles really are fascinating. They fly with wings that are as wide as we are high. It really puts into perspective just how big the sky is when we need binoculars or a telephoto lens to be able to get a better glimpse of their majestic beauty.
A couple of years ago we witnessed an outstanding amount of eagles in the Chehalis Flats when the water levels were low. You’ll look around finding dozens of eagles perched in the trees lining the shore, only to realize as you glance around that there are actually hundreds. You’ll look up into the sky and see a couple of eagles soaring around, and soon realize that there’s suddenly a dozen or more. It is incredible enough to see one eagle, but to see a convocation of eagles in a tree or soaring the skies is a special sight.
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Why British Columbia?
The Fraser River is 850 miles long and is the largest producer of sockeye salmon in the world. The eagles travel from northern BC, Alaska, and the Yukon as their food supply freezes. BC’s temperate Fraser Valley is where five species of salmon spawn. The Eagles have a big feast on the salmon that have returned to complete nature’s final duty, dying shortly after and creating food for the eagles.
Being able to witness the world’s largest eagle migration in our own backyard is special.
Best Places To Go Eagle Watching
The Chehalis Harrison system is said to be the strongest salmon river in all of Canada. The eagles depend on the flats to be able to survive the Fall and Winter months. The flats are a resting and feeding area, so being able to sit and socialize without being bothered is extremely important to their survival. Only watch the eagles from the shore. Quality outdoor gear is essential to great Eagle viewing from a distance.
You can find a map that outlines the Chehalis Flats and best viewpoints here.
Fraser River & Lougheed Highway 7
This year when we went eagle spotting, we had the most luck pulling over to the side of the road while driving along the Fraser River on the Lougheed Highway 7. There were plenty of cars lining the highway between fishermen and those searching to get a peek at the masses of eagles. Chances are you’ll notice the plethora of cars before you really notice any eagles in the distance.
Sandpiper Golf Resort
The Sandpiper Resort has been designated a prime bald eagle viewing destination. You can enjoy a forest walk, or watch the eagles soar from the Eagle Observation Deck. Here is a great map of the property so that you can find your way around. While you’re there, you could also take in some Fall golf while surrounded by the largest eagle gathering in the world.
This year we did not have any luck finding eagles at Kilby Park. However, there were still a lot of dead fish all over the beach as we went for a stroll. As is common with eagles, they first went for the eyeballs. Though we did not see any eagles there, some definitely had come for a feast.
On The Water
Hop on a boat that will take you out of the lake and onto the river to see the large groups of bald eagles feeding on salmon.
On your Shoreline Tours journey, you will explore the ecosystem of the river, with areas of an abundant salmon and prehistoric sturgeon population, seals, and bald eagles keeping watch high overhead.
If it is too cold on deck, you can also enjoy the viewing from inside the heated cabin.
All About Eagles – Did You Know?
- Eagles mate for life. There are several caveats to that, though. If a partner dies, the surviving eagle will find a new mate.
- Some Eagles even have triad partnerships that could be a combination of two males and one female or, two females and one male. In this situation, the nest holds the combined eggs, and the birds jointly take care of the eggs and young.
- The bald eagle is found almost entirely in North America.
- The call of the Eagle sounds like a high-pitched tweet; not a loud scream that you would expect to come from such a large bird.
- Eagles fly at 30 to 40 mph and dive at 100mph.
- Eagles have ridiculously good eyesight. They can see their smaller prey, like rabbits, two miles away! As they fly their vision stays in focus, despite the changing depths. This 20/5 vision makes them able to see four to five times better than humans!
- The bald eagle became the national bird of the United States in 1782.
- Most birds achieve the classic adult white head and tail feathers between their 4th and 5th year.
- When eagles fly to BC from Alaska, it is a downhill flight. Instead of having to flap their wings to fly, they are able to glide downward on the rising air.
- Eagles have much better eyesight than people; seven times better! They can see forward and sideways at the same time.
- Eagles live for a long time. Up to 80 percent of eagles, unfortunately, die from accidents or starvation before they reach the age of maturity. Those that do make it, however, live for 15 to 25 years. There has even been record of eagles living longer than 30 years in the wild, and nearly 50 years in captivity.
- Bald Eagles are big birds. Females are bigger and can reach 43 inches long with an 8-foot wingspan, and weigh around 14 pounds. Males are 25 percent smaller and only weigh around 10 lbs. Since females are larger than males, it is more difficult for them to maneuver as well during the flight.
- The size of eagles can vary depending on the region, however, Alaskan bald eagles are usually the largest.
- Young eagles can appear to be bigger than their parents, but this is due to their fledging feathers. These feathers act sort of like training wheels while the eagle needs some extra help while learning to fly.
- These gorgeous, regal birds have an impressive wingspan of almost eight feet. Stretch your arms out wide to get a visual of how big these birds are.
- Eagles can carry about three or four pounds. However, the weight they can carry also depends on how fast the eagle is flying. An eagle attacking with a lot of momentum will be able to carry a load greater than if they land on the beach to grab a fish.
- Eagles are able to catch fish and perch on branches with their sharp talons – one faces backward and three forwards.
- Eagle nests are massive! Eagles will use the same nest for years. Since they continually add to them, their dwellings can grow to up to nine feet deep and weigh two tons!
- Eagles look very awkward when they are swimming. However, they are excellent swimmers! They use their wings to perform their version of the breaststroke as they try to bring a large fish to shore.
- Larger fish and waterfowl are their meals of choice. They will also eat smaller mammals, such as prairie dogs, rabbits, raccoons, and rats.
- Eagles are known to steal kills from other eagles, hawks, and ospreys.
Related Story – Harrison Hot Springs, Christmas Cheer, And Bald Eagle Migration
Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival
As of 2021, the Harrison River Valley announced that after over 25 years of a collective effort by the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival Committee, Tourism Harrison will be taking responsibility for building on the Harrison River Valley’s designation as the world’s largest winter bald eagle gathering. Season of the Wild, a new celebration, will
Get to know the wild of the Harrison River Valley by booking a memorable wildlife getaway package.
Always practice proper etiquette when admiring the eagles from a distance.
Have you ever had a great eagle sighting in the wild? Tell us about it below!