If you enjoy throwing some seed on your back porch to watch the cardinals and finches flutter about, then perhaps it’s time to take your bird-watching to the extreme: eagle spotting.
Every winter, 150 to 350 bald eagles migrate south to Kentucky’s rivers and lakes. The Kentucky Department of Parks sponsors a series of wildly popular weekend eagle tours in January and February to give bird-watchers a chance to see these majestic birds in the wild.
“A lot of times you can see the eagles flying overhead and fishing,” says Frankfort resident Nancy McIver, who’s taken the eagle tours for the past five years. “They sit in the trees on the bank and swoop down and get a fish. It’s just fun. I never get tired of seeing eagles.”
Shawchyi Vorisek, avian ecologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, recalls seeing nearly 90 eagles during one tour. “It was just a phenomenal morning,” she says.
Eagle tours began around 1970 and are growing more popular every year, says Carey Tichenor, chief naturalist for Kentucky state parks. Tour locations include Lake Barkley, Kentucky Dam Village, Kentucky Lake, and Dale Hollow Lake.
In addition to migrating birds, 30 pairs of eagles now call Kentucky home—and the number is growing. “Eagles are now located across the entire state, including central and eastern Kentucky,” Vorisek says. “I think we’ll eventually see an eagle pair at every major reservoir in the state.”
Most people don’t have the opportunity to scout lakes in the hopes of seeing eagles. That’s the tour advantage, Tichenor says. “People get to go out with guides, biologists, and naturalists who know about eagles, their natural history, and the area down there,” he says. “You’re going out with experts and you’re going to see these birds. That’s different than just going out on your own.”
Some tourists may also witness a rare sight: eagles plummeting toward the ground with talons locked in a courtship ritual.
Tours may include a boat or van ride, or a combination of both. Prices range from $12 to $45 for an adult. For more information, visit www.kystateparks.com on the Internet. Tour dates and toll-free numbers to call for reservations include:
•January 16-17, January 23-24: Dale Hollow Lake, 1-800-325-2282
•January 16-18: Kentucky Dam Village, 1-800-325-0146
•January 23-25: Lake Barkley, 1-800-325-1708
•February 6-8: Kenlake, 1-800-325-0143
Be sure to visit Kentucky’s new virtual encyclopedia of the outdoors on the Internet: www.kentuckyawake.org.