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 sure is special.
Eagles are such gorgeous, regal birds that have an impressive wingspan of almost eight feet. Stretch your arms out wide to get a visual of how big these birds are. Bald eagles weigh 8 to 12 pounds and it is estimated that they 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.
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 was 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.
Did You Know?
- Eagles mate for life.
- The bald eagle is found almost entirely in North America.
- 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.
Related Story – Harrison Hot Springs, Christmas Cheer, And Bald Eagle Migration
Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival
The Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival is now a self-led tour during the world’s largest eagle migration. The festival came to a halt when it was felt that continuing the festival was doing more harm than good for these majestic birds. For more information on the eagle migration, we are now being directed to the Mission Visitor Information Centre.
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!