While many more bald eagles overwinter on the west side of Washington and Oregon, some migrate to the Inland Northwest and northeastern Oregon, showing up from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to Joseph, Oregon, and everywhere in between, including on the Palouse.
How does a wintering eagle spend its day? Mostly at rest, as it turns out. Eagles tend to concentrate near readily available food sources, which leads to a daily budget that includes approximately 23 hours either roosting or perched overlooking feeding areas. Adult eagles may spend as little as half an hour per day actually flying or feeding; with younger, inexperienced birds, the active time may expand to nearly 2 hours.
According to the Idaho Fish and Game Department, between 500 and 800 eagles congregate at Lake Coeur d’Alene during the winter to feast on spawning kokanee salmon, with peak numbers of the birds occurring during January and February. Farther south, bald eagles gather in Wallowa County, Oregon, during February and March, drawn by the prospect of scavenging afterbirths during the calving season.
These majestic birds can also be found along the region’s major waterways or wherever large-animal carcasses are secluded enough to allow them to approach on the ground. Adult and juvenile birds can be spotted along the roadways crisscrossing the Palouse, sometimes in flight, sometimes perched in large snags. Occasionally, lone birds are seen soaring over Pullman, WA, and Moscow, ID.