Missouri is one of America’s hottest eagle hangouts. Nearly 4,000 eagles spend their winters here. Look for them along Missouri’s big rivers, where they often fish from floating ice.
Bald eagles have massive hooked beaks for ripping apart fish and a windwhipping wingspan of more than 6 feet. Their eagle eyes can spot a meal on the move a mile away!
Eagles dive into meals feet first. Flying almost level to the water, they snag fish with an outstretched talon that has 10 times the gripping strength of humans.
Millions of shad live in Missouri’s rivers. That helps this fish family survive. Shad travel in large, constantly moving schools, leaping and skipping along. That’s why shad are nicknamed “skipjack.”
In winter, gizzard shad seek out warmer surface water to feed on plankton. When spooked, they can dart the length of your room in less than a second.
Once the eagle’s talons find their mark, our shad becomes a fish shadwich. Gizzard shad are one of the eagle’s favorite meals, sometimes accounting for nine out of 10 fish that eagles eat.
Nichole LeClair Terrill