A bald eagle in flight grasps a small fish in its talons. (Photo: Ron Holmes, USFWS)

Alabama’s Lake Guntersville State Park is planning another season of Eagle Awareness Weekends.

The event kicks off this Friday and runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday of each weekend through Feb. 18, featuring birds of prey presentations, guided tours with experienced park personnel and activities for all ages.

Eagle Awareness Weekends at Lake Guntersville State Park began in 1985 in conjunction with a program to restore the bald eagle population in Alabama. Because of loss of habitat, pesticide use and poaching, eagles had been pushed to the brink of extinction.

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Ninety-one bald eagles were released throughout Alabama between 1985 and 1991. It is now estimated that of the more than 77 bald eagle nests currently confirmed in Alabama, about 18 are in Guntersville and the surrounding area.

In the 33 years since the first Eagle Awareness Weekend, the event has been gaining in popularity, with an average of more than 420 people now attending each weekend. The weekends begin Friday evenings with informative speakers and a social, with presentations featuring a variety of nature-oriented topics continuing through Sunday afternoons.

“The Southeastern Raptor Center is always a special treat,” Emily Vanderford, natural resource planner for Alabama’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources State Park Division, said. “Wings to SOAR hosts a ‘flighted’ program that provides an especially up-close bird experience for many guests. You really can’t go wrong with any of the programs.”

She recommends participating in as many of the weekend events as possible.

“Bundle up and go on an early eagle watch, and then warm back up in the lodge restaurant with a buffet breakfast,” Vanderford said. “Take advantage of the Saturday morning field trip options, and, of course, don’t miss the live bird programs.”

Lake Guntersville State Park also offers other birding opportunities. Approximately 275 species have been recorded in the area, and winter is a good time to spot waterfowl, gulls and northern species along the lake.

Eagle Awareness Weekends are free to the public, but the park is offering special packages for staying the weekend in the lodge. Be aware that lodging fills up quickly.

Click here for more details about Eagle Awareness Weekends at Lake Guntersville State Park, including program schedules, a map of eagle watching hotspots in the park, a couple of videos and more.

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