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Bald eagles soar friendly skies of Illinois

Birds already spotted, will remain in area through February

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[DEC. 29, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD -- Illinoisans have the opportunity to observe the bald eagle in the wild in the coming weeks, as conditions are ideal for viewing: leafless trees and churning waters beneath dams on partially frozen Illinois waterways. While not yet a common sight, the majestic bird has come back from the edge of extinction, thanks in part to efforts by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Wildlife watchers who view the eagles are credited with making a significant contribution to the Illinois economy.

“Virtually any Illinois resident can make a day trip to view eagles,” said Joel Brunsvold, director of the Department of Natural Resources. “From Rock Island to Grafton, Quincy, east to Shelbyville, on sunny winter days, the birds can be spotted soaring high in the sky, apparently for the pure joy of flying. They are awe-inspiring.”

The economic impact of bird watching is significant. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that in Illinois, 638,000 residents traveled to watch wildlife in the most recent year studied, 2001. The agency estimated those watching wildlife in Illinois spent $5,960,000 that year alone.

Its feeding habits factor into predicting sites where the bald eagle can be observed in Illinois. The bald eagle is the only fishing eagle that inhabits North America. During months of cold temperatures, the eagle can often be spotted feeding beneath locks and dams, especially as rivers begin freezing. The birds are most active in the early morning or late afternoon.

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“In the past 25 years, we've seen a remarkable resurgence of the bald eagle,” said Glen Kruse, manager of the Restoration Ecology Section of the Department of Natural Resources. “By fostering development of wetlands and protecting the bird's nesting sites, we've been able to make Illinois a place that's hospitable to the bald eagle.”

Several locations overseen by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources are home to the bald eagle. See chart below.

[Illinois Department of Natural Resources news release]



Probability of
seeing eagles

Special events

Starved Rock State Park

LaSalle County


Bald eagle tours
Jan. 5, 8, 12, 15, 17, 19, 26, 29
Tours include eagle viewing and educational presentation.
Reservations required: (800) 868-7625

Pere Marquette State Park

Jersey County


Eagle-watching programs scheduled
Jan. 9-11, 22-24, 26, 30 and Feb. 5-8, 12-14, 19-20, 27
(618) 786-3323

Sanganois Conservation Area

Cass/Mason County



Hamilton boat ramp, Lock and Dam 19

Hamilton, Hancock County, Ill., near Keokuk, Iowa


Keokuk Bald Eagle Days
Jan. 15-16

Union County Conservation District

Union County



Mississippi Palisades and area near lock and dam

Carroll and Whiteside counties


Quad City Conservation Alliance Bald Eagle Days
Jan. 8-9

Horseshoe Lake

Alexander County



Eldon Hazlet


Low to moderate


Dickson Mounds




Lake Shelbyville

Shelby County

Low to moderate


Ray Norbut Fish and Wildlife Area

Pike County


Most of the conservation area south of I-72 is closed for the benefit of bald eagles wintering on the river bluffs. Bald eagle viewing is allowed, but watchers are not allowed south of the highway bridges.

Mississippi River State Fish and Wildlife Area

Composite of 15 wildlife management areas and 11 access areas, along 75 miles of Mississippi and Illinois Rivers in Calhoun and Jersey counties

Highest at Lock and Dam 25 in Calhoun County


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