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Eagle Watching Season is here! - Save Our Eagles Events

Illinois Important Bird Areas

The Illinois Important Bird Areas are a network of designated sites that provide essential habitats for bird populations. For more information about Illinois Important Bird Areas and how to nominate a site for designation go to www.habitatproject.org.

Click here for a list of designated Illinois Important Bird Areas.

Eagle Watching in Illinois

 

Specially planned programs allow visitors to experience bald eagles and witness the majesty of our national bird.

 

Although the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service still considers the magnificent American bald eagle a "threatened" species, this winter Illinois will present visitors with the opportunity to see thousands of bald eagles in their natural habitat - more wintering American bald eagles, in fact, than in any other state outside Alaska.

 

Every winter Illinois rivers, reservoirs and waterfowl refuges are temporary homes to more than 3,000 bald eagles who spend the season on their shores, migrating from Canada and other northern states when the water there freezes. The first eagles of the season are spotted in Illinois in December and remain in residence until they migrate back north in March, with January and February the optimal time for visitors to see eagles.

 

To accommodate visitors who want to take advantage of the opportunity to experience the bald eagles' majesty and glory, towns and parks across much of the state will host specially planned eagle observation programs and exhibits throughout the prime-viewing season. For anyone interested in American history, bird-watching and the environment, bald eagle season in Illinois is a not-to-be-missed opportunity.

 

Northern Illinois

Eagle Watch Weekend will be January 24 and 25, 2009 at Starved Rock State Park in Utica.  It is the premier event of the area's bald eagle watching season. The event will be held at the Starved Rock Lodge and Conference Center and Illinois Waterway Visitors Center Lock and Dam. Activities are planned throughout the day, and include Native American Eagle Dancer at 11:00, 1:00 and 3:00 on January 24 and 25, 2009.

 

For more information, contact the Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau (800-746-0550, www.flocktotherock.com/events.htm).

 

The Illinois River Valley, where bald eagles roost in the shoreline bluffs and forests along the river, is another popular destination for eagle viewing. During Starved Rock Bald Eagle Days in January, visitors can attend live raptor programs, nature seminars, exhibits and children's activities. High-power viewing scopes will be available for eagle watching. Admission is free.

 

For more information, contact the Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau (800-746-0550, www.flocktotherock.com/events.htm).

 

Henry Bald Eagle Days will be Saturdays during February in Henry, IL. Visitors can scout for bald eagles along the scenic Illinois River at the Henry Lock and Dam, where the eagles like to hunt for food on the open water. Admission is free.  Also, there will be a bird of prey show in the late mornings and early afternoons every Saturday.  Breakfast will be provided at the legion hall for the morning show and lunch will be provided at the grade school for the afternoon show.  Following each Bird of Prey show an authentic Native American Eagle Dance will follow the birds of prey show at the grade school.  The birds of prey show and Native American dance is $4 per person. 

 

For more information, contact the City of Henry (309-361-7487, www.henryil.com).

 

The Eagle Nature Foundation is hosting the Bald Eagle Bus Tours.  The 4-hour bus tours to see wintering bald eagles along the Upper Mississippi River will be on January 17th, February 14th, and February 28th, and will leave from the Stoney Creek Inn, West Hwy. 20, Galena, IL at 8:00 am.

 

For more information call the Eagle Nature Foundation (815) 594-2305 or visit www.eaglenature.com.

 

Western Illinois

In the western region of the state visitors can attend the Quad Cities Bald Eagle Days during January in Rock Island. The World Bird Sanctuary will present a seminar, complete with flying demonstrations, that features live bald eagles, hawks, owls, vultures and other birds of prey. The Audubon Society will be offering tours along the Miss to view the Bald Eagles in nature.  Admission is $4 for adults and $1 for children under 16.

 

For more information, contact the Quad City Conservation Alliance (309-788-5912, www.qccaexpocenter.com).

 

Bald Eagle Watch and Clock Tower Tours will be held each Saturday and Sunday January 3, through February 15, 2009 at 9:30 AM, 11:00 AM, and 1:00 PM in Rock Island. The tours begin with a brief presentation about bald eagles in the Visitor Center Theater. Guests then walk to the Clock Tower for an overview of the historical structure. A spotting scope will be available at the top of the Clock Tower for eagle viewing. Admission is free.

 

For more information, contact the Mississippi River Visitor Center (309-794-5338, www.missriver.org).

 

The Quincy Bald Eagle Watch held during January 25, 2009 from 10 AM to 3 PM in Quincy features outdoor eagle viewing at Quincy City Park. Rangers will be available to answer questions and help visitors locate eagles with spotting scopes. The eagles are drawn to the area's open water along the Mississippi River, where food is the most plentiful. Admission is free.

 

For more information, contact the Quincy Ranger Field Station (217-228-0890).

The 9th Annual Eagle Days Festival and Art Competition on February 7th is sponsored by the Mason County Arts Council, Fulton County Arts Council, Dickson Mounds Museum, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Havana Public Library, Emiquon Audubon Society, and The Nature Conservancy is now open to all students in Grades 1-12 in Mason and Fulton Counties. Deadline for completed artwork will be January 12, 2009. Awards in each category will be given during a special presentation at Dickson Mounds Museum on February 7, 2009, at 4 p.m. Winning artwork will be on display at Dickson Mounds Museum between February 7 and March 1, 2009.

 

For more information, contact the Dixon Mounds (309-547-2730, http://museum.state.il.us/ismsites/dickson/eagleart.htm).

Southern Illinois

The Union County Refuge in Union offers another popular spot for bald eagle watching. Visitors can view bald eagles and take wildlife photography off the main road, which runs down the middle of the wildlife refuge. In addition to eagles, Union County is home to a winter population of 50,000 to 100,000 Canada geese every year -- one of Illinois' largest populations of wild geese in their natural habitat. Park rangers will be available weekdays to answer questions about the eagles and other wildlife spotted in the refuge. Admission is free.

 

For more information on eagle watching, contact the Union County Refuge (618-833-5175).

 

Southwest Illinois

Located off the Great River Road on the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, Pere Marquette State Park in Grafton offers free bald eagle watching programs December through February. These programs consist of lectures, video presentations and observational drives to several areas where bald eagles are most plentiful. In addition to eagles, visitors may also spot great blue heron, Canada geese, wild turkeys and the pileated woodpecker. Admission is free.

 

For more information, contact Pere Marquette State Park (618-786-3323, www.greatriverroad.com/Eagles/eagleViews.htm).

 

Brussels Free Ferry Area in Jersey & Calhoun Counties, Illinois This is a favorite area for Bald Eagles with two adjacent government wildlife areas for roosting and the Brussels Free Ferry churning up fish to eat or to steal from the ringed billed gulls. There is riverside Eagle Watching Parking at the Ferry and several other off road parking areas just east of the Ferry (towards Grafton.) Just west of the ferry along the Great River Road is the Gilbert Lake Hiking Trail of the Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge.


For more information, contact Calhoun County Ferries (http://www.greatriverroad.com/SecondaryPages/ferries.htm).

 

Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway in Madison and Jersey Counties, Illinois From Alton to Grafton the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway runs along the Mississippi River under the limestone bluffs. Eagles can be spotted riding the ice down the river or soaring as they look for fish. There are a number of places that eagle watchers can pull over to get a longer look. Don't forget to stop at the Alton Visitors Center near the grain elevator to get information on the area and on Saturdays in January to see an eagle up close.


For more information, contact Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway (http://www.greatriverroad.com/mgrindex.htm).

 

Bald Eagle - Up Close and Personal in Madison County, Illinois You can see a live Bald Eagle every Saturday in January from 10 am to 2 pm at the Alton Visitors Center. Experts from the World Bird Sanctuary will be there to answer your questions, books and souvenirs are available for sale, and other information can be obtained on where to look for eagles as well as other information about the area. The events are free and picture taking is encouraged. The Alton Visitors Center is located at the corner of Broadway and Piasa Street near the grain elevator in downtown Alton.

 

For more information, call 1-800-258-6645 (http://www.worldbirdsanctuary.org/).

 

 

Calhoun & Jersey Counties, Illinois offers a viewing station and long range binoculars can be found at the Visitors Center in the Calhoun County portion of this refuge operated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. This part of the refuge is most easily accessed by the Brussels Free Ferry which may not be running if the river is frozen. In Jersey County, eagles can be spotted along the flat three mile long Gilbert Lake Hiking Trail. Unfortunately the only known Bald Eagle nest in the region was destroyed by a storm in the spring of 2002.


For more information on the Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge visit http://www.greatriverroad.com/Cities/Brussels/refuge.htm.   For more information on Calhoun County Ferries visit http://www.greatriverroad.com/SecondaryPages/ferries.htm.

 

At Melvin Price Locks and Dams in Jersey County, Illinois the water below the locks and dam are almost always free of ice which makes this a popular place for Bald Eagles. The Esplanade park has several viewing platforms and a good view of the Maple Island Conservation Area. The Locks and Dam complex is adjacent to the new National Great Rivers Museum (http://www.greatriverroad.com/Cities/EAlton/riverMuseum.htm).


For more information on the Melvin Price Locks and Dams visit http://www.greatriverroad.com/Cities/EAlton/MelvinPrice.htm.

 

The Nature Institute in Madison County, Illinois is located on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River in Godfrey. The office has a spotting scope that visitors can use to look for eagles and is open Monday through Friday. The Nature Institute also hosts several informational Bald Eagle programs during January and February.


For more information on The Nature Institute visit http://www.greatriverroad.com/Cities/Godfrey/olin.htm


Bald Eagles like to roost in the trees along the Illinois Hardin Riverfront in Calhoun County, Illinois. Many eagle watchers like to take a lunch break after a morning of "baseball spotting" at either the Barefoot or Mel's Riverdock where diners can view eagles from large picture windows.

 

For more information visit http://www.greatriverroad.com/Cities/Hardin/HardinCover.htm.

 

Eagle Days at the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Saturday, January 17, and Sunday, January 18, 2009. It includes live eagle programs, exhibits, activities, videos and guides with spotting scopes. The spotting scopes will be located in the middle of the mile-long Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, where guides will help visitors locate the birds along the Mississippi River. Admission is free.

 

For more information, contact the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge (314-416-9930, www.trailnet.org).

With more than 40 miles of pristine shoreline, the Alton Lake section of the Great River Road is a picturesque spot to view bald eagles. The World Bird Sanctuary will present a live bald eagle for visitors to view up close every Saturday in January at the Alton Eagle Meet & Greet. More than 1,000 eagles migrate to the region each year, returning to their winter home along the bluffs of the Great River Road.

 

For more information, contact the Alton Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau (618-456-6676, www.visitalton.com).

 

The Illinois Bureau of Tourism offers free travel resources with additional information on eagle watching, winter and holiday festivals, and events and attractions. All are available by calling 1-800-2CONNECT to speak with an Illinois travel counselor or by visiting the Bureau's Web site, enjoyillinois.com.