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Bald Eagles Now A Common Sight

By Staff | Jan 12, 2010

DES?MOINES?- Many Iowans heading outdoors in 2010 shouldn’t be too far from a bald eagle sighting.

Once on the verge of being lost in the continental United States, bald eagles have made a strong comeback; one accentuated each winter, as they migrate south. “With the rivers (still) open, the eagles are very much spread around. Typically, though, we will have from 2,500 up to about 4,500 eagles in Iowa during the winter,” notes Bruce Ehresman, wildlife diversity biologist with the Department of Natural Resources.

With that number out there, it is much more likely for Iowans to spot an eagle flying overhead or perhaps a few perching over water through the day. Additionally, there are plenty of organized eagle viewing activities planned across the state.

Volunteers and wildlife professionals will spread out over the next couple weeks to conduct the state’s midwinter bald eagle survey. Patrolling standardized routes, often along river corridors, they come up with a ‘snapshot’ of the number of eagles. “It very much helps us keep track of whether eagles are increasing or decreasing,” says Ehresman. He points to the number of juvenile birds; those which don’t yet have the regal white head and tail. Often ranging from 30 to 40 percent of the birds tallied in recent years, it shows biologists that the population is growing.

In the mid-20th Century, those juveniles were hard to find. Loss of habitat and exposure to chemicals, like DDT, drove eagle numbers down. Now, the nation’s symbol is a favorite cold-weather favorite of wildlife watchers. Communities along the Mississippi River, and several others inland, sponsor Bald Eagle Appreciation Days. Attendees can view wild eagles from spotting scopes set up near daytime perches; often near a lock and dam. Many celebrations also feature indoor programs, with eagles which cannot be returned to the wild.

Learn more by going to www.missriver.org website-provided by the Natural Resources management section of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-and clicking on ‘Bald Eagle Days.’

“The celebrations are wonderful opportunities to learn more about the life history of the bald eagles; to see how they fit into the web of life,” explains Ehresman. “Some people almost take them for granted, because there are so many eagles around in the winter. Most people, though, get very excited to see an eagle up close.”