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Arts and Culture

Discover Nature: Bald Eagles

An adult bald eagle with white head and black body sits on atop a nest built of sticks in the fork of a leafless sycamore tree.
An adult bald eagle perches in its nest in a sycamore tree. Watch for bald eagles in Missouri this week, as resident and migrating populations peak.

Missouri’s resident and migratory bald eagle populations peak in the winter, and now is a great time to look for these iconic American raptors.

 

Mature bald eagles are easily identifiable by their black bodies with white head- and tail feathers. However, for their first four to five years of life, juveniles sport all-brown feathers with white speckles. 

 

Look for their large nests – sometimes reaching eight feet across and thirteen feet deep – in treetops near rivers, lakes, and marshes in Missouri. Bald eagles are top predators, primarily of fish, but also play an important ecological role as scavengers. 

 

These large birds of prey once found themselves on the brink of extinction due to habitat destruction, illegal shooting, and pesticide poisoning. Thanks to decades of dedicated conservation efforts and protective regulations, bald eagles have made a substantial comeback.  

 

Known today as our national bird in the United States, their cultural significance actually predates European settlement.  Some Native American cultures have long considered bald eagles sacred and revere their feathers as important symbols.  

 

Watch for bald eagles on your next adventure outdoors, and learn more about them with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) online field guide, and find information on special events and places near you to watch eagles in the wild.

For more information on birding opportunities in Missouri, visit the Great Missouri Birding Trail

 

Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

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