Resource Management

Bald Eagles on the San Bernardino National Forest

Bald eagles are a common sight during the winter months here on the San Bernardino National Forest (SBNF). Bald eagles are generally associated with lakes and rivers because they prey on fish and ducks. During the fall and winter months ducks fly south to avoid frozen lakes and the bald eagles fly south following their meal sources. Therefore, there is an influx of bald eagles into southern California during the winter months as eagles from the north are forced to fly south to find food to eat.

The San Bernardino Mountains has the largest wintering population of Bald Eagles in Southern California. During a typical winter, 10 to 20 eagles make this area their home. In spring, most of them migrate north to nest. Biologists have tracked some of our wintering eagles to Wyoming, Idaho, Montana and Alberta, Canada. One eagle that wintered at Lake Silverwood migrated to and from the Great Slave Lake, in Canada’s Northwest Territories — a commute of more than 4,000 miles round trip!

More about Bald Eagles – Takes you to another page. We can get more pics on this way.

Eagle Watching Tips and Eagle Protection

During the day, eagles are usually seen perched on snags or dead-topped trees along the shore of the lakes. They sit there conserving energy until they see likely prey (fish or ducks in the lake), often as far away as a half mile. If there is ice on the lake, look for them sitting on the ice. Look for flocks of ducks in the lake. Eagles are often perched close by. Also, watch the activities of ravens and gulls. They like to steal food from Bald Eagles (and vice versa).

When you look for Bald Eagles, remember to keep your activity and noise to a minimum. Do not try to approach them. Stay as far away as possible. A car acts like a blind, so if you can observe the eagle from inside your car, you are likely to have better success. Please consider that Aan eagle disturbed by you could possibly miss a meal, or waste energy flying away.

The San Bernardino National Forest contributes to the protection of Bald Eagles by closing some parts of the Forest to the public so that wintering eagle populations can live with limited disturbance from people. When looking for eagles, please respect the “closed area” signs. Important perch and nest areas on the National Forest are closed to protect the eagles from disturbance.

Bald Eagles are protected under several laws that make it illegal to harm or harass bald eagles. It is also illegal to possess bald eagle parts, even a feather. Do your part to protect our wonderful national symbol!

Do You Have Eagle Eyes?

Each year, family-friendly Bald Eagle counts are held at Big Bear Lake, Lake Arrowhead, Lake Silverwood, Lake Perris, and Lake Hemet. Some of these sites have held winter counts since 1978. Volunteers are stationed at vantage points around the lakes, where they watch for bald eagles during a 1-hour period on the count mornings. Volunteers record their observations on maps and data sheets. Do they take photos? This is a wonderful opportunity to catch a glimpse of our breath-taking national symbol in its natural environment..

“Through this method, the agencies and land managers have learned a lot about which areas are important to eagles and how the populations are doing. But we can’t do it without a lot of volunteers,” said Forest Service biologist Robin Eliason. “We need people to put on their eagle eyes to help us search. The more eyes and ears we have helping, the more likely it is that we won’t miss any eagles.”

The Bald Eagle counts (called census) just take just a couple of hours. The day begins with a short briefing with instructions about how to do the census. At some of the sites (Lake Hemet, Lake Perris, and Silverwood Lake), all of the volunteers do the census together from one vantage point. At Big Bear Lake and Lake Arrowhead, volunteers drive to their assigned vantage points and stay there for the duration of the count (9:00 to 10:00 am) and then return to their meeting place to turn in their observation notes.

The winter 2016/17 Bald Eagle counts will be held on four Saturdays:

  • December 10th
  • January 14th
  • February 11th
  • March 11th

No experience is needed. Signing up ahead of time is unnecessary. Simply show up at the designated time and location, dress warmly, bring binoculars and a watch.

Click here for News Releases with more information about upcoming eagle count days.

Eagle Count Locations and Meeting Places

  • Big Bear Lake area volunteers typically meet at the Forest Service’s Big Bear Discovery Center on North Shore Drive for orientation. Contact Robin Eliason or at 909-382-2832 for more information.
  • Lake Arrowhead/Lake Gregory volunteers meet at the Skyforest Ranger Station for orientation. Contact Robin Eliason at or 909-382-2832 for more information.
  • Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area volunteers normally meet at the Visitor Center for orientation. Contact Kathy Williams or Mark Wright for more information about volunteering or taking an eagle tour. 760-389-2303 between 8:00 and 4:00; or email:
  • Lake Hemet volunteers meet at the Lake Hemet Market at 8:30 a.m. for orientation. Contact Ann Bowers at or 909-382-2935 for more information.
  • Lake Perris State Recreation Area volunteers should plan to meet at the Lake Perris Regional Indian Museum at 8:00 for orientation. For more information call Lake Perris SRA at 951-940-5600 or the Lake Perris Regional Indian Museum at 951-940-5657.

Are You an Eagle-Maniac?

Join us for more eagle fun at the Big Bear Discovery Center. There is a free family-friendly slideshow about Bald Eagles at 11:00 after the bald eagle counts (December 10, January 14, February 11 and March 11). Contact the Discovery Center at 909-382-2790 for information.