Discover Nature: Bald Eagle Populations Peak in Missouri During Winter
January 17 - January 23
Discover Nature this week as the Bald Eagle population peaks near open water and big rivers throughout Missouri.
Our state welcomes record numbers of bald eagles each winter and it has some of the most spectacular viewing areas in all of the lower 48 states because of the many prime wintering locations for the eagles. Some of these areas include Lake of the Ozarks, Mingo National Wildlife Refuge, and anywhere along the Mississippi or Missouri rivers, just to name a few.
From late December through early February, bald eagles will perch in large trees along the water's edge and will be very active flyers early in the morning as they fish for their morning meal.
Early explorers and settlers reported seeing lots of bald eagles and their nests.Unfortunately certain practices caused eagle numbers to steadily decline. Some people shot them for fear they were a threat to livestock. Also, many big trees near rivers and lakes were cut, which the eagles needed for nests and places to perch while hunting.
Pesticides such as DDT almost caused eagles to become extinct. DDT poisoning caused eagles to lay eggs with shells so thin they were crushed by the weight of the parents. In the early 1970s, there were only about 80 to 90 breeding pairs in the lower 48 states.
Eagles were declared an endangered species in 1967 and DDT was banned in 1972. Thanks to laws that were passed specifically to protect these birds of prey, the eagles rebounded and biologists now estimate there are more than 10,000 nesting pairs in the United States.
To find prime eagle viewing locations near you, go online to MissouriConservation.org, or go exploring. You will most likely find eagles clustered around wetlands, lakes and rivers as they spend the winter months here, feeding on fish.