Chippewa National Forest
From the majestic bald eagle to the sweet sounding wren, over 230 species of birds are found in the Chippewa National Forest. The greatest variety of birds can be found between the forest and open areas. Here smaller birds such as the warbler, sparrow and hawk can be seen perched in the pines or basking in the sun.
A soaring bald eagle is truly a sight to behold and your odds of seeing one are greatest in the Chippewa National Forest, as this area supports the highest breeding density of this endangered species in the United States. Eagles are often viewed soaring over the larger lakes of the area. A soaring bald eagle is a treat to almost anyone's eyes. People often make a special trip to the Chippewa National Forest to observe bald eagles, our national emblem and an endangered species. You are likely to see bald eagles, especially if you spend time along the shores of some of the Forest's larger lakes. The Chippewa supports the highest breeding density of bald eagles in the U.S., outside of Alaska. Large fertile lakes, towering pine trees, and remote areas provide ideal nesting and feeding habitat. With a wingspan of over six feet and the pure white head and tail of the adult birds, the eagle is truly a magnificent bird.
Nesting birds return in late February and early March, although a few birds spend the winter on the Forest. Eggs are laid in early April; the young leave their lofty nests in mid-July. Eagles occupy their breeding areas until the lakes freeze over in November or December.
Nest site locations are kept confidential to protect the birds from disturbance during the critical periods of incubation and rearing of young. However, there are many opportunities to observe eagles, often close-up, as they perch near lakeshores or hunt for fish, their main food source.
The best opportunities for viewing bald eagles are from a boat. Search the lakeshore with binoculars for eagles perched on dead or dying trees; they can often be approached quite closely for a photograph if you remain on the water and are quiet in your approach. Watch the sky for soaring birds as they search for dead or dying fish on beaches or on the water surface.
Eagles tend to be associated with larger lakes, such as Winnie Cass, Leech, and Bowstring Lakes. These birds of prey often perch on islands in these larger lakes.
One of the better opportunities to view eagles is to canoe down the Mississippi River, between Cass Lake and Lake Winnie. The Big Fork and Leech Lake Rivers are also favored habitats.
Without a boat? Find places along the beach with a good panoramic view of a lake. Campgrounds, picnic areas, and boat landings are good places to go eagle watching. Eagles also frequent Leech Lake Dam and Winnie Dam.
White-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, and numerous waterfowl provide good wildlife viewing and hunting opportunities. Several sensitive species such as the osprey, loon, and great gray owl also make the Chippewa their home. The gray wolf, a threatened species, is present but rarely seen.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication