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Discover Nature: Bald Eagles

An adult bald eagle with white head and black body with wings spread soars over an open body of water.
An adult bald eagle perches soars over an open body of water. 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, the bald eagle’s 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. 

Kyle Felling was born in the rugged northwest Missouri hamlet of St. Joseph (where the Pony Express began and Jesse James ended). Inspired from a young age by the spirit of the early settlers who used St. Joseph as an embarkation point in their journey westward, Kyle developed the heart of an explorer and yearned to leave for adventures of his own. Perhaps as a result of attending John Glenn elementary school, young Kyle dreamed of becoming an astronaut, but was disheartened when someone told him that astronauts had to be good at math. He also considered being a tow truck driver, and like the heroes of his favorite childhood television shows (The A-Team and The Incredible Hulk) he saw himself traveling the country, helping people in trouble and getting into wacky adventures. He still harbors that dream.
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