Back in the late 70s, bald eagles were well on their way to extinction in the lower 48 states and it was a rare treat to see one. Thanks to good environmental management in the years that followed, Missourians now see bald eagles almost weekly and there are more than 175 active nests in Missouri.
Even better, during the winter, the Show-Me State is an eagle magnet as they move south following open water. Because the locks, dams and power stations on our rivers and lakes – particularly on the Mississippi River – keep some water open even in harsh winters (and have a tendency to stun fish – the eagles' favorite food), the big birds find Missouri the perfect winter getaway.
Eagle watching is a huge draw for residents and visitors alike, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all events sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation and most community events around the state have been cancelled for the 2020-2021 season.
Currently, there is one organized event still planned for March 6, 2021, at Lake of the Ozarks. That event features displays and Owls of Missouri presented by Dickerson Park Zoo at Regalia Hotel & Conference Center, wild eagle viewing at Willmore Lodge and Bagnell Dam Access, and live eagle programs presented by the World Bird Sanctuary at Osage National Golf Resort. Hours: 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (Check website for program times.)
Instead of formal events, the Missouri Department of Conservation is encouraging people to enjoy Missouri's bald eagles on their own between December and February. The best places to view our national symbol in the wild are listed below. Be sure to dress for the weather – and don't forget your binoculars and spotting scopes for the best view.
Benjamin Franklin wanted the young United States to select the wild turkey as its national symbol. As cool – and delicious – a bird as it is, spend a few hours winter eagle watching on your own, and you'll be grateful that Founding Father got outvoted. Enjoy the majestic show!
Written by Barb Brueggeman