If you haven’t had a chance to see a bald eagle on anything but TV, this is a good time to visit one of the many Eagle Day events held across Missouri. The first one is Dec. 1 at Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge in Northwest Missouri. Most are held in January and the final two in February.
It’s an especially great story this year because in August 2007 the bald eagle was removed from the Endangered Species List by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It means that, through active conservation efforts, bald eagle numbers are up and the birds are doing well.
When I was making mobile movies for the Missouri Department of Conservation, I filmed our biologist Brad Jacobs tending to some of young eagles in a hacking tower. It was part of the long-term work to help bring the eagles back to nesting in our state as their populations were recovering. The birds were fed through a door in the back of the nest/cage, which was high up in a tower. The birds couldn’t see who or what was feeding them, so wouldn’t become attached to the person feeding them. Brad said that he had to stand guard the night before some of the birds fledged to protect them against raccoons. It’s just one small example of the kinds of efforts so many people made to help the eagles thrive.
Eventually, when the birds were ready to fly, the front doors of the towers were opened. The eaglets would stand out on large branches in front of the nest and flap their wings, exercising as they got ready to try to fly. Their first attempts to fly were incredibly awkward—nothing like the soaring birds that Glenn Chambers filmed in “Where Eagles Soar.”
If you’re interested in a chance to see some firsthand, try one of the Eagle Day events this year.