The 6 Best Places and Times to See Bald Eagles in Pennsylvania

Written by Clemence-Maureen Feniou
Updated: October 12, 2023
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Pennsylvania, renowned for its diverse wildlife and breathtaking natural landscapes, is also home to the majestic bald eagle. As America’s national bird, bald eagles are not only a symbol of strength and freedom but also a remarkable sight for nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers.

Bald eagles are protected by federal law, including the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which prohibits harassment or disturbance to these birds. When observing bald eagles, always maintain a respectful distance and avoid disturbing their nests or feeding areas. These ensure their continued protection for future generations to appreciate. Bringing binoculars is the perfect tool for a closer view while minimizing your impact on the eagles and their environment.

If you are looking for bald eagles, check out these locations!

Let’s delve into the best places to witness bald eagles in Pennsylvania.

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1. Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area

flying snow geese at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, Stevens, Pennsylvania

Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area is the best place in Pennsylvania to see bald eagles.

©Bo Shen/iStock via Getty Images

Best times to see bald eagles: In the winter

This significant wildlife conservation area is in Lancaster and Lebanon Counties, PA, and covers over 5,000 acres. The site plays a vital role in Pennsylvania’s wetlands and wildlife conservation. Managed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, this conservation area is also an important habitat for bald eagles.

Diverse habitats characterize the area, including wetlands, meadows, woodlands, and the 400-acre Middle Creek Lake. With its diverse ecosystems and wetlands, it is home to a large number of bald eagles, specifically during the nesting season. These majestic birds of prey are often seen flying overhead or perched in trees around the lake.

The park has an active eagle nest that can be observed from a distance. Visitors can spot nesting eagles during their breeding season, which begins in late winter and extends into early spring. In addition to bald eagles, various other wildlife species live at Middle Creek. White-tailed deer, wild turkeys, red-tailed hawks, great blue herons, and many waterfowl species are common sights.

Visitors can stroll along multiple trails to access wildlife observation points. Besides wildlife watching, the area offers opportunities for some recreational activities. These include hiking, fishing, and hunting. However, visitors should always pay attention to specific and strictly enforced regulations that can vary throughout the year. Additionally, Middle Creek also offers educational programs, guided tours, and exhibits. This is the perfect occasion for visitors to learn more about the local wildlife and conservation efforts. Tourists can also stop at the visitor center to learn about the area’s birds, animals, and ecosystems.

Visitors should always remember to bring a pair of binoculars and safely watch from a distance. It is also recommended for visitors to check the management area’s website for current information on wildlife activity.

2. Pymatuning State Park

2 Bald Eagles

Bald eagles thrive in an environment with wetlands and woodlands.

©Wirestock/ via Getty Images

Best times to see bald eagles: In the winter

Pymatuning State Park is a large and popular state park in Crawford County, PA, near Linesville. This state park is also shared with Ohio to the west. Famous for its picturesque lake and diverse natural attractions, it is an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. The park’s landscape features meadows, wetlands, and woodlands.

The park’s most iconic feature is the Pymatuning Reservoir, one of the largest artificial lakes in Pennsylvania. Covering 17,000 acres, the lake offers a great ecosystem for bald eagles.

The park is home to several pairs of nesting bald eagles. It is common for visitors to spot these apex predators in flight or perched in the trees surrounding the lake. The park’s eagles are also a symbol of successful wildlife conservation efforts in the region after decades of population decrease.

In addition to bald eagles, visitors can observe diverse wildlife. Waterfowl, herons, osprey, and other bird species live along the lake’s shores. The park also welcomes white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and small mammals.

Visitors can enjoy several trails and observation areas to spot the bald eagles and other species. These are also the ideal spots to learn about the park’s flora and fauna. Additionally, the state park also hosts educational programs throughout the year, ideal to learn more about the region’s ecosystem and wildlife.

3. Lake Erie Shoreline

Presque Isle Lighthouse Presque Isle Erie Pennsylvania

The Presque Isle State Park in Erie, PA, is great for observing bald eagles along Lake Erie.

©Different_Brian/iStock via Getty Images

Best times to see bald eagles: In the winter

Pennsylvania has approximately 44 miles of shoreline (71 kilometers) with Lake Erie. The shoreline provides a unique and attractive habitat for bald eagles, making it one of the best places for eagle sightings.

Plus, Lake Erie plays an essential role in the winter migration of bald eagles. The lake’s surroundings are home to a resident population of eagles. Still, it also serves as a destination for many eagles migrating in search of open water and food sources. When the temperature drops, bald eagles fly down to ice-free waters where they can find fish. Some eagles will stop at the lake, while others will stay for the winter.

Lake Erie shorelines provide an abundant food source for bald eagles. The waters teem with fish, with some of the bald eagles’ favorite species like walleye and yellow perch. Eagles can hover over the lake, scanning for fish near the surface. You might see them swoop down to catch their prey if you’re lucky.

Looking for the best area to spot bald eagles along Lake Erie? Head to Presque Isle State Park. The park’s diverse habitats, with beaches, wetlands, and woodlands, provide the perfect environment for eagles. Visitors can spot bald eagles when flying and resting on tree branches. Plus, Lake Erie and its surroundings offer stunning scenery, an ideal spot to observe bald eagles in their natural habitats.

Additionally, with Lake Erie’s extensive size, bringing binoculars is necessary to get a closer view of these apex predators.

4. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

American bald eagle with wings spread and perched on branch against background of Alaskan Kenai region shoreline along Cook Inlet

In the Appalachian Mountains, the sanctuary’s location provides excellent viewpoints for eagle-watching.

©FloridaStock/Shutterstock.com

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Kempton, PA, is well-known for its role in the conservation of raptors, including bald eagles. The sanctuary is famous for its fall raptor migration, but bald eagles are spotted in the area throughout the year. They are particularly common around the sanctuary during winter, when they gather around open water to hunt for fish.

While the sanctuary does not focus on bald eagles, it actively promotes conservation efforts for raptors. The sanctuary is a vital location for the observation and study of birds of prey, where scientists conduct research and maintain records of raptor migrations. The data helps scientists better understand the behavior, population trends, and health of eagles and other raptors. The sanctuary also has a visitor center with information on the various raptor species and sometimes hosts exhibits and educational displays.

5. Bald Eagle State Park

The bald eagle, the national bird of the United States, symbolizes freedom and strength.

©iStock.com/R Lolli Morrow

Best times to see bald eagles: In the winter

Bald Eagle State Park is a beautiful and historically significant park in Howard, Center County. Covering 5,900 acres, it is one of the largest state parks in Pennsylvania. The park offers a mix of forested hills, a large lake, and a variety of outdoor recreational activities.

Bald Eagle Lake, a man-made lake, offers the perfect environment for bald eagles to thrive. They often fly over the lake while hunting for fish or on the tree branches. However, bald eagle sightings remain rare in its park, but the state park holds a special place due to its connection with these iconic birds.

Besides wildlife watching, the area is perfect for boating, fishing, and swimming. Surrounded by lush woodlands, it is the perfect place to enjoy various outdoor activities while watching bald eagles in their natural habitats.

6. Susquehanna River

Susquehanna River in PA, USA on a summer autumn day.

The river’s length is over 400 miles (644 kilometers) from upstate New York through Pennsylvania before arriving in the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.

©McKinneMike/iStock via Getty Images

Best times to see bald eagles: In the winter

The Susquehanna River, one of the most important waterways in the Eastern United States, is a prime habitat for bald eagles in Pennsylvania. After the population decreased in the 20th century, lots of conservation efforts along the river helped the return to a thriving population of bald eagles. For example, the banning of the pesticide DDT had an extensive impact.

The river serves as a wintering ground for many bald eagles as the Susquehanna River remains ice-free during the colder months, allowing bald eagles to easily hunt for fish. In addition, the river is teeming with various species of favorite, with some of the raptors’ favorite, attracting a significant bald eagle population.

The area is also home to nesting pairs, which pick tall trees near the water’s edge to build their nests. Those large trees, in high density around the river, make it an attractive location.

When to Sight Bald Eagles in Pennsylvania

Bald Eagle in Pine Tree Florida

Some eagles live year-round in Pennsylvania, but a majority migrate from northern grounds.

©WebGuNet/Shutterstock.com

Thanks to Pennsylvania’s extensive food resources, some bald eagles stay in the state year-round. Young adults and non-breeding eagles migrate out of Pennsylvania in spring and summer and return with the arrival of winter.

Winter is often considered the best time to see bald eagles in Pennsylvania. Many eagles migrate south from their northern breeding grounds, looking for open water and food sources. Some eagles also migrate in the fall.

If visitors are interested in the breeding season, the best time to visit is from February to June. At this time, visitors can witness eagles caring for their eggs. During the breeding season, bald eagles are highly active as they care for their nests and young eaglets. Bald eagles’ eggs start to hatch around 35 days after incubation.

Visitors should remember that the exact timing of bald eagle sightings will vary yearly. Those depend on weather, food availability, and individual eagle behavior. Visitors can check local websites for up-to-date information on the bald eagle population.

Bald Eagles’ Population in Pennsylvania

Bald Eagle in Nest with Eaglet

Bald eagle females typically lay two eggs a few days apart.

©Brian E Kushner/Shutterstock.com

Pennsylvania’s bald eagle population has remarkably recovered over the past few decades. Once classified as an endangered species, these apex predators made a significant comeback. Their return is primarily the result of dedicated conservation efforts, environmental awareness, and legal protections.

In the 1980s, Pennsylvania had only three known nesting pairs of bald eagles. This was a catastrophic number as bald eagles used to be abundant in the past. However, thanks to active measures to protect nesting sites, create suitable habitats, and reduce harmful pesticides, the population started to thrive again. Today, Pennsylvania is home to a thriving number of approximately 300 nesting pairs.

In addition to the conservation efforts, the state’s landscape diversity attracts bald eagles. Pennsylvania’s expansive network of rivers, lakes, and forests provides the nesting sites and food sources (primarily fish) bald eagles need.

Summary of The 6 Best Places and Times to See Bald Eagles in Pennsylvania

NumberPlaceSeason To Watch
1Middle Creek Wildlife Management AreaWinter
2Pymatuning State ParkWinter
3Lake Erie ShorelineWinter
4Hawk Mountain SanctuaryThroughout the year
5Bald Eagle State ParkWinter
6Susquehanna RiverWinter

The photo featured at the top of this post is © PHOTOOBJECT/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Clémence-Maureen is a writer at A-Z animals primarily covering geography, locations and travel. She holds a Master of Science in Journalism from the University of Southern California, which she earned in 2023. A resident of Hawai'i, Clémence-Maureen enjoys hiking, surfind and volunteering in taro farms.

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