Look up: More bald eagles soaring in Manitoba skies, says expert

If it seems like you’ve noticed more bald eagles flying around in Manitoba lately, you’re not alone, says one expert — there really are more eagles in our skies right now.

This is the time of year when eagles usually make their way back north, but the local population of the birds has also swelled over the last number of years, according to Jim Duncan, former director of Manitoba’s Wildlife and Fisheries department.

“We’re starting to see more eagles than we have in the past, and they’re also starting to reoccupy some areas where they used to breed before the population declined,” said Duncan.

Manitoba’s bald eagle population started declining, as did the population of other birds, because certain pesticides were getting into the food they ate, which resulted in eggs breaking or hatched birds not surviving, Duncan said.

Eagles gather near the river’s edge:

Manitobans might be able to watch bald eagles around thawing rivers, as they stop for food on their way back from down south. 0:32

But since those pesticides were banned, and protections for the birds were put in place, the populations have grown over the past decade or so, he said.

Right now, many eagles can be seen on the thawing rivers around Manitoba, since those rivers provide a source of food that the birds congregate around, Duncan said.

“As the ice thaws, these kind of fresh, frozen fish become available to eagles as they’re migrating,” he said.

“When fish spawn, they enter into shallower waters and … they concentrate there, and it’s kind of a great place for bald eagles to hang out and get easy food.”

Eagles tend to gather near food, said Duncan. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

All of that provides a good chance for bird-watching, says Duncan.

“It’s kind of a great opportunity for people to see the birds, but also some great behaviours such as aggressive interactions between individuals, depending on how hungry they are, their age, or sex,” he says, noting female eagles are bigger than males.

Duncan says people who want to learn more about bald eagles (and other birds) should consult the Manitoba Breeding Bird Atlas.

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