Skip to main content

See Bald Eagles, America's national bird, soar at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge


To have hope, sometimes you have to look to the sky. 

With its regal pose and a wingspan of over 6 feet, the bald eagle has been the national bird of the United States since 1782. 

For Native Americans, the soaring raptor has been sacred for thousands of years longer.

The eagle's majestic likeness even graces the presidential seal.

And the bird can be spotted across New York, most notably at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in the Finger Lakes region, the result of a robust effort to reintroduce bald eagles to the state that launched in 1976. The Montezuma program used a falconry technique called “hacking” to help release young birds into the wild.

It was the first time the technique was used to restore bald eagles in North America and it was a success.

By the mid-20th century, the icon of America was endangered: Hunting, loss of habitat and the use of pesticides led to a drastic decline.

The federal government declared the bird endangered in much of nation and passed the Bald Eagle Act of 1940 to help protect the bird. Yet despite legislation, by 1960 there was one known active Bald Eagle nest in New York state.

After the efforts at Montezuma, located in Savannah, the eagles have thrived at the refuge. A dramatic bronze statue of the bird is visible from the New York Thruway, commemorating Montezuma's role in the return of the once-endangered bird to the state. 

There are currently six active bald eagle nests in Montezuma. Osprey, Harriers and many migratory birds and wildlife can also be observed throughout the winter months. 

To see a bald eagle — you won’t be disappointed — here’s what you need to know:

  • Bring binoculars or a spotting scope. 
  • The Visitor Center and restrooms are closed due to COVID-19; Wildlife Drive is closed for the season.
  • Seneca Trail is open.
  • The following wildlife viewing areas are open: Visitor Center deck, Seneca Trail Tower, North Spring Pool, Tschache Pool Tower; May’s Point viewing platform; Know-Marsellus overlook; Sandhill Crane Unit.
  • Dogs are not allowed in the refuge, with the exception of leashed dogs on Seneca Trail.
  • For the latest information, call the Refuge at 315-568-5987, Monday through Friday, or follow Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge on Facebook.

The Montezuma Audubon Center, located in Savannah, is open Tuesday through Saturday.

More: Looking for winter adventure? Try these 7 gems in Central NY, Finger Lakes, Southern Tier

More: Cuomo touts $26 billion in NY renewable energy projects. Here's what's coming to your area.

Follow Kate Collins on Twitter: @kcollins213. To get unlimited access to the latest news, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.