The sight of a bald eagle soaring across a cerulean winter sky can inspire even the most casual observer. For those who enjoy viewing birds, though, it can be an adrenaline-rushing experience. And the good news is bald eagles are common in Kansas during the winter, if you know where to look.
America’s symbol, the bald eagle, has traveled a long road from a prominent member on the Threatened and Endangered Species List, to a species fully recovered and taken off the list. In the early 1960s, less than 450 breeding pairs were known to nest in the lower 48 states. In the 1990s, that number had grown to more than 4,500. In Kansas, one bald eagle nest was documented in 1989, but in 2011, nearly 60 nests were documented and more than 80 eaglets were fledged.
But it’s during the winter when viewing bald eagles is best in Kansas. They begin showing up along major river courses and reservoirs in December and January when ice and snow conditions in northern states make feeding difficult. Primary food items in winter include waterfowl, fish and carrion.
You can just drive to the nearest river or reservoir to view eagles. Look for them roosting in tall trees along the shoreline, especially near open water or large concentrations of waterfowl. Or you can attend one of the organized eagle viewing events which include educational programs and often live raptors on display.
On Jan. 19, Eagle Day at Milford Lake will begin at 9 a.m. at the Milford Nature Center. Programs featuring live raptors begin at 9:30 a.m. and are repeated throughout the day. Bus tours will depart from the nature center parking lot during the day, with the last tour departing at 3:30 p.m.
The annual Kaw Valley Eagle Day, sponsored by the Jayhawk Audubon Society, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Unified School District 497, will be conducted on Jan. 19 in Lawrence. It’s an event for the whole family featuring hands-on educational and fun activities for kids. Visit http://www.kawvalleyeaglesday.com for more information.
On Jan. 26, the 12th Annual Eagle Day will be conducted at Wyandotte County Park in Kansas City. Two live eagle presentations will be conducted at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at Schlagle Library and bird presentations will take place every hour starting at 10 a.m. in Davis Hall. The library will have eagle crafts for kids and trained spotters to help visitors view wild birds.
For more information or to download a park map, please visit http://www.kckpl.org or call 913-299-2384.
Image courtesy Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism