When will it happen? Eggs, falcons, ice-out, and snowy owls!

When will the eagles lay eggs? When will falcons come back? When will Snowy Owls leave? Your questions, answered! Check the quick and easy schedule below or read on to get the details! Want to help us log spring migrants on the Flyway? Share your sightings on our Facebook page, Instagram, or explore.org’s snapshot gallery. Please @raptorresource on Facebook and Instagram, and tag with #springmigration2022 on all platforms. You can also email photos and sightings to [email protected] Remember to include the date!

Average Egg Laying, Arrival, Departure, and Ice-Out Dates
Location Activity Average Date 2022 Guesstimate
Decorah North First Egg February 19 February 19th or later
Decorah First Egg February 24 February 24th or later
Xcel Fort St. Vrain First Egg It’s Complicated! February 28 or later
Great Spirit Bluff Falcon arrival February 18 February 15
Mississippi Flyway Ice Out Not listed Early March
First eggs: Decorah, Decorah North, Fort St. Vrain

Female eagles tend to lay a little earlier in warm, humid weather and a little later in cold, dry weather. As egg-laying draws closer, we’ll see more bonding and more grass deliveries. Eagle pairs will dig, scrape, and mold multiple layers of soft stuff to the nest’s floor, testing and fine-tuning the fit to make sure the nest is ready for eggs. Gravid females will bloat with reserved water (sound familiar?) and curtail their activity, so look for them to hang the nest a little more two or three days before egg-laying starts.

Decorah North – Average first egg date: February 19

February 16, 2021: DNF's first egg

February 16, 2021: DNF’s first egg

On average, DNF lays her first egg on February 19. She could lay a little later or a little earlier in 2022: female eagles tend to move a little earlier in the first two or three years of nesting, but this year is shaping up to be cold and dry! Cold, dry weather makes it more difficult for female eagles to build the water reserves they need to lay eggs, which means they tend to start laying a little later. We’re expecting her first egg on or after February 19.

  • 2021: DNF laid her first egg on February 16
  • 2020: DNF laid her first egg on February 21
  • 2019: DNF laid her first egg on February 21

Decorah Eagles – Average first egg date: February 24

February 26, 2020: Mom's First Egg of 2020

February 26, 2020: Mom’s First Egg of 2020

Mom’s schedule is a little more complicated! In 2009, 2010, and 2011 – her first three years with Dad – Mom’s average lay date was February 26. Between 2012 and 2018, her average date shifted to February 23. 2018 marked her last year with Dad Decorah, who disappeared after a mid-April snowstorm.

New mates can shift breeding chronology later, especially when the pair first bonds well into the breeding season. But Mom accepted DM2 in the fall of 2018, which gave them plenty of time to get comfortable with one another, and her breeding schedule has not changed much in their four years together. If the weather stays cold and dry, look for eggs on or after February 24.

  • 2021: We think Mom laid her first egg on or around February 24
  • 2020: Mom laid her first egg on February 26
  • 2019: Mom laid her first egg on February 22
  • 2018: Mom laid her first egg on February 21 [last year with Dad]
  • 2017: Mom laid her first egg on February 20
  • 2016: Mom laid her first egg on February 18
  • 2015: Mom laid her first egg on February 18
  • 2014: Mom laid her first egg on February 23
  • 2013: Unknown
  • 2012: Mom laid her first egg on February 17
  • 2011: Mom laid her first egg on February 23
  • 2010: Mom laid her first egg on February 25
  • 2009: Mom laid her first egg on March 2

Fort St. Vrain Eagles: Talk about complicated!

February 14, 2020: 1st egg at Xcel Energy Forth St. Vrain

February 14, 2020: 1st egg at Xcel Energy Forth St. Vrain

Ma FSV accepted a new mate in January of 2021. Watchers were amused (and sometimes annoyed) by what they described as Pa Jr.’s cluelessness: he didn’t bring many food gifts, wasn’t especially good at nestoration, initiated clumsy or oddly-timed copulation, and seemed to disregard Ma’s needs, wants, and demands. Perhaps Ma agreed with them, since her average copulation date moved from February 15 to March 04. Despite the cold, dry weather, I would look for eggs as early as February 28: female eagles often move earlier in their first few years with a new mate.

  • 2021: Ma laid her first egg on March 4
  • 2020: Ma laid her first egg on February 14 [Pa’s last year]
  • 2019: Ma laid her first egg on February 13
  • 2018: Ma laid her first egg on February 12
  • 2017: Ma laid her first egg on February 14
  • 2016: Ma laid her first egg on February 16
  • 2015: Ma laid her first egg on February 14
  • 2014: Ma laid her first egg on February 21
  • 2013: Ma laid her first egg on February 17
  • 2012: Ma laid her first egg on February 16
  • 2011: Ma laid her first egg on February 16
  • 2010: Ma laid her first egg on February 14
  • 2009: Ma laid her first egg on February 17
  • 2008: Ma laid her first egg on February 27
  • 2007: Ma laid her first egg on March 3
Arrival Dates: Great Spirit Bluff
February 18, 2020: A closer look at Newman

February 18, 2020: A closer look at Newman

Territorial male falcons usually arrive a few days to a week earlier than territorial female falcons, followed by non-territorial males and females. Newman won’t be quiet when he arrives – listed for wailing and look for tail-wagging flights as he announces his availability to female falcons migrating north!

Average first falcon arrival: February 18
We saw falcons at Great Spirit Bluff on January 22, but the male wasn’t Newman and we don’t know who the female was. We do know that the US Bank falcons winter in La Crosse and the resident male, like the male we saw at Great Spirit Bluff, was banded black/red. Newman could surprise us with an early arrival, but we’re sticking with a mid-February arrival date based on his history.

  • 2021: Newman returned to GSB on February 24
  • 2020: Newman returned to GSB on February 18
  • 2019: Newman returned to GSB on February 15
  • 2018: Newman returned to GSB on February 23
  • 2017: Newman returned to GSB on February 12
  • 2016: A falcon was spotted on GSB on February 20: Newman’s first year at GSB
Departure Dates: Ice Out and Snowy Owls
March 6, 2020: A large lead opened up and we saw Mallard Ducks in the distance!

March 6, 2020: A large lead opened up and we saw Mallard Ducks in the distance!

I was unable to find an exact ice-out date for Lake Onalaska, but the ice went out in early March last year. How can we predict when ice will go out? Watch for new migrants to arrive! Last year:

  • We saw our first song sparrow on March 3
  • Bald Eagles started arriving in great numbers on March 6. We also saw ducks and geese.
  • We saw our first sandhill crane on March 8

We’ll post when the first spring migrants start arriving!

Snowy Owls

January 16, 2022: Snowy Owl on The Flyway

January 16, 2022: Snowy Owl on The Flyway

When do snowy owls leave? It’s complicated, since departure appears to vary by age, sex, and breeding status. We know that most of the snowy owls we see on Lake Onalaska are juveniles, but we don’t know much else about them.

  • More people reported Snowy Owls to eBird between January 1 and February 28, than between February 1 and March 30.
  • A study of eastern owls found widely varying departure times, although adults migrated north earlier than juveniles. Adults left in early-to-mid-March, while juveniles left in late March to early April.
  • Whenever they leave, we aren’t likely to see them after ice-out.

Keep watching and share your sightings on our Facebook page, Instagram, or explore.org’s snapshot gallery. Please @raptorresource and tag with #springmigration2022.