|Bald Eagle at Lake Springfield - Charles Burwick|
Bald Eagles of Missouri - by Charles Burwick
“See any eagles?” This is a common remark from a person standing nearby while I am scoping Lake Springfield, or any large body of water in Missouri. I am reminded, every time I hear that refrain, of a lady asking me if the eagles being viewed during an Eagle Days Event at Lake Springfield were, in fact, wild eagles.
We all are aware of the period of time when Bald Eagles, and other raptors were in precipitously decline. There was deep concern that Bald Eagles and many other raptors were going to becoming extinct as a result of DDT. Actually, early on, we didn’t even know why their populations were declining. As a youth there was not even talk of any chance we would ever or expect to see a Bald Eagle in Missouri.
Fortunately the publication of the book “Silent Spring” authored by Rachel Carson, brought awareness of the cause of declining bird populations and saved the day for many birds including raptors and our National Emblem, the Bald Eagle. However, that still left us a long way from seeing a Bald Eagle, much less nesting Bald Eagles in Missouri,
In the 1990s Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) initiated a program to re initiate Bald Eagle populations into Missouri. The program was an outstanding success. Today there are more than 750 nesting Bald Eagles in Missouri. Interestingly, the Bald Eagles that are hatched and fledged in Missouri do not migrate from Missouri. They are year-round residents.
The population of Bald Eagles that migrate into Missouri from other States provide opportunities to see large numbers of Bald Eagles during the winter. The eagles are drawn to Missouri in the winter because of the many large lakes in our State, and of course the two major rivers, the Mississippi and Missouri.
|Eagles at Stella, Missouri, 2010 - Jeff Cantrell|
Large numbers of Bald Eagles congregate in the early part of the winter in and around Stella, Mo. This happens as a result of the many chicken farms around the area. In the past, dead chickens were thrown out on the open ground, which is now illegal, imprinting the eagles on that location for winter food.
MDC puts on several Eagle Day events across the State, as well as other towns, or organizations along the major rivers, and lakes. It is easy to Google for Bald Eagle event locations across the State. Here just take a drive to Lake Springfield, cross over south of the lake bridge, and turn right into the parking lot. View west towards a distant tree line, and you can view an active Bald Eagle nest.
|Nesting eagle east of Springfield near the James River - C. Burwick|
To me the real excitement of Bald Eagles sightings is because you may spot an eagle any day of the year. While birding around Greene and surrounding counties, I frequently spot, and take pictures of Bald Eagles during every month of the year. In our part of Missouri, as a Bald Eagle flies, they are really never far from rivers and/or lakes of every size.
|Prince William Sound, Alaska - Mark Bower|
While the eagle’s diet is prominently fish, they are quite opportunistic feeders, and are frequently spotted eating road kill, and other carrion. So, when you are driving around just enjoying the Missouri landscape be aware that the large bird sitting in the field, on the road, or in a tree may well be a Bald Eagle. Also, remember that it takes 3-5 years for a Bald Eagle to molt to adult plumage with the white head, and tail, so don’t mistake an immature eagle for a hawk.