Illinois winters mean bald eagle watching. Spotting bald eagles in the wild during their annual return to Illinois is highlight of the season for many locals and visitors alike. Illinois is only second to Alaska for being the largest wintering population of bald eagles. Hot spots, tours and events dedicated to the great bird can easily be found. Thousands of birds winter along the Mighty Mississippi River December through March
If you plan to go Eagle Hunting here are some tips to keep in mind:
Watch the large waterways like rivers. In the winter there will be large amount of eagles to fly to the south in search of food. Each year 4,000 to 7,000 bald eagles will winter along the Mississippi River. The river offers abundant food and open water at locks and dams and power plants which help keep the river from freezing. The primary food source is fish and eagles love fish.
Bald Eagles need place to roost during the night and perch during the day. Bald Eagles roost together in large mature trees surrounded by smaller trees. So when looking for Bald Eagles look into the sky for large trees that may be their homes. The roost provide the eagles with protection from the weather. Bald Eagles also look for source close to the source of food and an average of 60 yards from the waters edge. One of the greatest threats to eagles is the continued destruction of woodland habitats along the rivers. If this continues to happen the eagles will not be able to find trees to nest, roost or a perch to hunt on.
When watching the Bald Eagle be sure to keep your distance. Anglers, birdwatchers or boaters get too close to the eagles the birds will fly away. This will expose them to undue stress and make them use energy they may not have and could cause them to leave the site entirely. Stay 400 yards away from perched eagle. If possible stay in your vehicle Best time to watch eagles is during the early morning when they are feeding.