The Merrimack River Eagle Festival

Merrimack River Eagle Festival logo

Presented by Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center & Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Save the Date!
Saturday, February 9, 2019

When winter returns to Merrimack Valley, so do the Bald Eagles. Every year we host a grand event marking their return, and we hope you'll join us in Newburyport and Amesbury to celebrate these very special winter residents. 

The 2019 Merrimack River Eagle Festival will be held on February 9, 2019

Festival Details >

Frequently Asked Questions

I have little children. Which of the three live bird shows would be appropriate for us?

We recommend the hour-long raptor shows at City Hall for children ages six and up. For families with younger children, we recommend the shorter, more intimate and flexible raptor demonstrations at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and at Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats.

What’s the difference between visiting an Eagle Hot Spot and going on an Eagle Tour?

Whether you drive yourself to a viewing spot, or you travel by van tour, there will be guides in blue knit hats at each site on the map to help you. If you need flexibility in your day, or if you’re travelling with young children, we recommend driving yourself to the hot spots so you can arrive and leave according to your own wishes. If your Eagle Festival experience allows structure, or if you’re coming with a group, an eagle tour might be right for you.

What does it cost to attend Eagle Festival events?

You can participate in several Eagle Festival events for free, including guided eagle spotting in Newburyport, Amesbury, and on Plum Island, as well as live demonstrations of raptors at three different locations. Guided van tours cost $10 per adult and $5 per child (ages 6-17). Specialized photography tours with Hunt’s Photo & Video instructors cost $50 per person. Online registration for all of these paid opportunities will be possible starting in January. Otherwise, there are several chances for you to help with expenses, and we very much appreciate any donations!

Will I see a Bald Eagle?

If the river is frozen, you’ll have an excellent chance of seeing a Bald Eagle. And there are plenty of other species of beautiful winter wildlife in this area—including seals, snowy owls, waterfowl, and falcons. We think you’re going to be amazed!

What are the chances that Eagle Festival might be cancelled?

We get some pretty iffy weather in February! We will present Eagle Festival in all circumstances unless we determine that conditions are hazardous to our participants—in which case, we will cancel the event and all registration fees will be refunded.

Additional Winter Bird Programs

Call Joppa Flats at 978-462-9998 for information or to register.

Wednesday Morning Birding
Wednesdays, 9:30-12:30. For adults. Preregistration not required.

Saturday Morning Birding
Saturdays, 9:00-11:30. For adults and children age 8 and up. Preregistration not required.


Joppa Flats Education Center, located at One Plum Island Turnpike in Newburyport, is a natural history education center that is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday and Monday holidays, 8:30 am–4:00 pm. Call 978-462-9998 for additional information, or visit

The Parker River National Wildlife Refuge is operated by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The refuge encompasses over two-thirds of Plum Island and consists of 4,662 acres of critical coastal habitats, including dunes, maritime forest, and salt marsh. The Refuge Visitor Center and Headquarters, located at 6 Plum Island Turnpike in Newburyport, is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 pm and on the weekends from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Call 978-465-5753 for more information, or visit the refuge website at