Winter eagle watching can be spectacular in many places in Missouri along rivers and lakes, as Don Melsha of Hermann and his 14-year-old grandson, Jacob Melsha, of Kirkwood, discovered in early February. Using a 300mm telephoto lens, they captured several eagles flying over the Missouri River west of Kallmeyer’s Bluff here, and also photographed them perched in large trees along the water’s edges.
Missouri is one of the leading bald eagle states. Thousands of eagles migrate south each fall to hunt around the open waters of state rivers and lakes. More than 2,000 bald eagles are reported in Missouri regularly during winter.
The bald eagle was formally adopted as our national emblem in 1782. In the 200 years since, its numbers suffered a great decline. However the bald eagle has recovered and it is reported that more than 7,000 nesting pairs are found in the lower 48 states. In 1995, the federal government downgraded the bald eagle’s status from endangered to threatened throughout its range. A few bald eagles usually are seen in Missouri by mid-fall, but most arrive in December. In some cases, a bird will return to the same location each winter to find food in unfrozen lakes and rivers.
Clarksville is one of Missouri’s most popular locations in winter to view bald eagles, and Lake of the Ozarks also sponsors Eagle Days in January, which draws several thousand people each year.