The Shepaug Dam, on the Housatonic River in Southbury, holds a special appeal to the wintering birds because the hydroelectric station’s operation prevents water from freezing, making it easy to feed on fish below the dam. Since it opened in 1985, the Shepaug Eagle Observation Area has hosted nearly 140,000 visitors to observe the eagles and view exhibits. The program is managed by volunteers from the Connecticut Audubon.
Visitors gather in a blind with spotting scopes set up to provide excellent viewing. Volunteers can assist viewers, provide information and answer questions. Individuals and school groups are welcome.
Possibly the largest concentration of wintering eagles in New England can be seen perching, fishing or flying at this site on the Housatonic River. In past years visitors have witnessed as many as 20 or more eagles in a single day, not to mention a variety of other birds including red-tail hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, goshawks, great blue herons, and various waterfowl.
The bald eagle is making a comeback thanks to intensive conservation efforts. Pesticide poisoning and direct human interference had decimated bald eagle populations, but the banning of DDT and stronger legal protections, combined with reintroduction and management efforts, have allowed eagle populations to rebound.
In the recent past, eagles were rarely seen during the summer months in Connecticut because nesting did not occur in the state. In 1992 a pair of eagles made Connecticut their home for what was believed to be the first time in 41 years. They began a new generation of eagles, and within a decade there were eight nesting pairs.
During the viewing season, admission is free but reservations are required. This year reservations may be made on line by clicking the Book Now icon below.
In the case of current or anticipated inclement weather, visitors are urged to call 1-860-895-6468 to verify whether or not the viewing area is open before arriving on the reserved viewing day. If the eagle viewing facility is closed due to inclement weather, reservations are cancelled and must be rebooked online.