Encountering a Bald Eagle Family at Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge

On March 2nd, 2024, while driving the auto tour road in the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma, I encountered a couple stopped alongside the road. One of them was using a spotting scope pointed westward. I decided to stop at a safe distance and wait, not wanting to disturb them. After a few minutes, the woman packed up the spotting scope and approached my truck. She informed me they were observing Bald Eagles feeding a baby eagle in the distance.

Following their departure, I parked and used my 800mm lens to observe the male and female eagle, spotting a single baby. It is important to note that the Bald Eagle nest was over 100 yards away from my parked location. Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that an Eagle tour bus operates in this area on Fridays and Saturdays, and these birds are accustomed to traffic on this road (2024 Eagle Tours at Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge).

Bald Eagle Family
Bald Eagle Family

On March 3rd, 2024, I returned and made a video of the female and baby Bald Eagle. Due to the distance, you’ll need to look closely to spot the baby in the video.

Viewing Nesting Bald Eagles Ethically and Legally:

Observing nesting Bald Eagles requires following crucial guidelines:

  1. Consider the Context: Not all Bald Eagle families react similarly to human presence. Birds in remote areas are more easily disturbed, so focus on observing birds accustomed to human activity like those in this specific refuge.
  2. Be Aware of Vulnerable Periods: Bald Eagles are particularly sensitive during specific breeding stages. Avoid disturbing them during courtship, egg laying, and when the young are about to fledge.
  3. Minimize Your Impact: If possible, utilize a blind for observation and maintain a safe distance. As a general rule, stay at least 330 feet away from an active nest to minimize disturbance.
  4. Use Discretion: Observe the eagles’ behavior closely. If they display signs of stress due to your presence, retreat immediately. Avoid crowds and refrain from baiting the eagles in any way.

Transparency and Ethical Considerations:

Photographers often choose to keep the locations of nesting Bald Eagles confidential due to ethical and legal concerns. While I understand this practice, I believe this situation differs slightly. The Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge actively advertises opportunities to see the Bald Eagles, suggesting they believe responsible viewing can be achieved without harming the birds.