Save the Eagles Day: The best locations to see one of the world’s most iconic birds
It’s National Save The Eagles Day! Celebrated on January 10 every year, this little-known occasion aims to raise awareness of the more than 60 species of eagle that inhabit the Earth – several of them critically endangered.
Long revered for their power, speed and self-sufficiency, eagles adorn the national seals of Germany, America, Russia and Poland, and the national flags of Mexico, Ecuador, Albania and Egypt.
Their legend precedes them, so pick up some pocket binoculars and start eagle-spotting. They may be closer than you think…
Golden Eagle – Isle of Harris, Scotland
They’re not the largest, fiercest or most colourful eagles on offer, but a broad distribution and the most majestic-sounding name in nature mean the golden eagle is practically a god amongst birds.
The Isle of Harris, in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, boasts one of the highest densities of breeding pairs in Europe, as well as the rather grandly named North Harris Eagle Observatory. To all intents and purposes it’s a shed, but the views stretch out over the several kilometres of eagle breeding ground.
Bald Eagle – Starved Rock State Park, Illinois
The bald eagle has represented the United States almost since the Declaration of Independence, but it was a controversial appointment among the founding fathers. “He is a bird of bad moral character,” wrote Benjamin Franklin of his newfound feathered friend, “he does not get his living honestly.”
Moral character aside, it’s quite a sight to see bald eagles hunting in droves over Illinois’ Starved Rock State Park. Hundreds of the birds winter here – alongside resident pairings – so December to March is the time to visit.
The colder the winter the better your chances – if the lakes and rivers freeze over, the birds will flock to the dam to feed.
White-Tailed Eagle – Isle of Mull, Scotland
‘Sea eagle’ refers to an entire genus of eagles (the bald eagle is technically a ‘sea eagle’), but when used by the uninitiated, it’s this winged whopper they tend to mean. The largest European eagle and one of its most widespread, white-tailed eagles will happily rest their talons anywhere from Iceland to the Sea of Japan.
You can spot it across much of Northern Europe, but we’re going with the Isle of Mull as your best bet because it’s a) closer to home, and b) super lovely anyway. If you’re lucky, you might see golden eagles sharing the same sky.
Philippine Eagle – Mindanao, Philippines
Comfortably rivalling the platypus and pygmy hippo for unbridled strangeness, it’s quite surprising the Philippine eagle isn’t more widely known.
Also called ‘the monkey-eating eagle’ (because yes, it eats monkeys, as well as lemurs, monitor lizards and other birds of prey), this giant of the jungle boasts a wingspan of over two metres. With its upright demeanour, fabulously feathery ruff, and eyes that seem to stare into the soul, the Philippine eagle looks somewhere between dignified and comical.
There are two main ways to see this critically endangered bird: Either trek through the forests of Mindanao with your fingers crossed, or visit the Eagle Conservation Center in Davao City. The only such centre in the Philippines, they have seven birds on display.
Steller’s Sea Eagle – Hokkaido, Japan
One of the more attractive eagle species, with brown and white plumage framed by yellow talons and beak, the Steller’s Sea Eagle lives in a land of ice and snow. Another specimen of monstrous size, adults weigh 4.5-9 kg – the heaviest eagles on earth.
They breed in the Northeast Russian province of Kamchatka, but assuming you don’t want to vacation in one of the coldest and remotest parts of Siberia, we suggest you catch them while they’re wintering in Northern Japan.
Many eagles are fed regularly by locals, and have begun to lose their fear of man. You’re as likely to see them perching expectantly on a fence-post as hunting in the freezing brine.
Harpy Eagle – The Amazon, Brazil
The national bird of Panama, this dark-eyed demon feasts mostly on small monkeys and sloths. A rare bird that only sporadically strays from its nest, the best way to see one is to stay in a rainforest lodge. You may still emerge eagle-less, but odds on the Amazon will still keep you entertained.
Fun fact: The harpy eagle was the inspiration for the design of Fawkes, Dumbledore’s phoenix in the Harry Potter film series.
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