The best time of the year to see bald eagles in California is during the winter, mainly from December to March. By December or January, hundreds of migrating eagles have arrived on their wintering grounds in California, having flown hundreds or thousands of miles from breeding areas in states and provinces in the north. These winter visitors join hundreds of year-round resident bald eagles of California. On some midwinter statewide surveys, more than 1,000 bald eagles have been counted in California. The largest concentration of wintering eagles is found in the Klamath Basin, on the California-Oregon border.
Outside of the Klamath Basin, there are relatively few areas in California that support dependably large wintering concentrations. Wintering bald eagles that are alone or in small groups may be seen near lakes and rivers, even open rangelands, in any county of California from time to time, such as when they are on the move during migration or in search of foraging grounds. Winter concentrations diminish from February to April, as resident bald eagles return to their nesting territories in California and winter visitors depart for their nesting areas to the north.
The places where you are most likely to see the eagles in numbers are at reservoirs and lakes. At some of the better wintering areas, a dozen or two dozen or more bald eagles can be seen in a day, and in the Klamath Basin, hundreds. At many of these areas, listed below, the public is afforded good opportunities to see bald eagles from viewing sites or on guided tours during the peak wintering months. Some facilities charge fees for tours, and reservations must often be made well in advance.
Live video of nesting bald eagles on Santa Catalina Island, California (late winter through summer).