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January 22, 2009 / Bo Mackison

Bald Eagle Revival

Roosting Near the Mississippi River

Roosting in the Bluffs Near the Mississippi River

The Bald Eagles appear to be alive and well. A far cry from their story only a few decades ago, when America’s symbolic bird was on the Endangered Species list.

I went to observe the eagles wintering along the Mississippi River. They tend to hang out around the locks and dams which have areas of open water, even during the winter’s coldest months. And open water, to an eagle, indicates the diner in open.

I spent parts of last Saturday and Sunday mornings at the Lock and Dam # 11 near Dubuque, Iowa. Saturday was overcast and cold (6˚F) but the eagles were quite active because it had warmed about 20˚ in the last two days. They thought it plenty warm enough to do a few aerial dives into the river and they were successful in their fishing attempts.  I must have seen a dozen birds in the hour I was there.

On Sunday the clouds cleared for a few hours, and I was actually able to get a shot of this eagle with blue skies in the background. But the aerialists were gone, and I had to settle for seeing maybe three or four birds high in the trees along the bluffs.

I spoke to a member of the Army Corps of Engineers who oversees the dam, and also to a member of the local Audubon Society who keeps his eyes on the eagles. They both told me they’ve been doing eagle counts since the 1970s. Thirty years ago, in a counting trip from one dam to the next, in a span of perhaps 20 miles, they saw a total of one Bald Eagle. This year, same span, same time of year, and they reported seeing more than 200.

Soaring above the Mississippi

Soaring above the Mississippi

Yes, quite a comeback. It seems the Bald Eagles are doing quite well.


  1. Marcie / Jan 21 2009 3:59 pm

    WOW! What a spectacular find and capture! Gorgeous bird. Would love to see it with its wings spread!!!

  2. Robin / Jan 21 2009 3:59 pm

    Nice shot, Bo. 🙂

    And hurray for the eagles and their comeback!

  3. Grace / Jan 21 2009 4:22 pm

    As the Eagle is our national emblem, this ‘come back’…on this day.. seems very symbollic to me! 🙂 WOOO!

  4. Gandalf / Jan 21 2009 5:24 pm

    Hmmm. She/he reminds me of the Muppets.

    I also would echo Marcie’s comment. It would be spectacular to see the wing spread of this bird.

  5. Bo / Jan 21 2009 5:31 pm

    For Marcie and Gandalf – I added a shot of the eagle soaring. Not a great pic, but it gives you an idea of his grandeur.

  6. Laurie / Jan 21 2009 6:58 pm

    Beautiful shots of the eagles…there is a good sized population of them in the southern pine areas of NJ. They are so beautiful to see.

  7. montucky / Jan 21 2009 7:11 pm

    It’s so good to see them doing well there, too. They have done very well in this part of the country.

  8. jeju / Jan 21 2009 8:42 pm

    beautiful soaring shot!

  9. Carsten / Jan 22 2009 3:50 am

    Beautiful shot. You are lucky! -Or very patient 🙂
    I saw the Bald Eagle near Kennedy Space Center twice. But couldnt get a shot at it in time. Remarkable bird.

  10. suehenryphotography / Jan 22 2009 8:29 am

    I took the opportunity to photograph the Eagles at the Keokuk lock and dam. I concur with everything you said. And watching them is truly a sight to behold.

  11. Anna Surface / Jan 23 2009 9:06 am

    Wow! Absolutely beautiful captures! We were out and about at a nearby dam where the bald eagles nest, and saw one flying by. But we didn’t wait out in the cold to capture photos of any of these magnificent birds. Way to go, Bo. 🙂

  12. UrFavoriteNephewMatt / Jan 26 2009 5:09 pm

    Great Picture! They are amazing up close! Very nice (:

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