Eagle Watching

Here they come -- convoys of birds looking for winter homes throughout the Great Rivers & Routes region, 25 miles north of St. Louis on the Mississippi River.

Hundreds of American Bald Eagles, thousands of Trumpeter Swans, ducks, geese and even the occasional Snowy Owl take up residence in the region from late December through early March.

Facts & Information On American Bald Eagles

  • Eat fish, carrion, smaller birds and rodents
  • Soars through the sky rather than flap wings
  • There is a large amount of bald eagles in Alaska and Canada
  • Use their talons to fish or steal the kills from other animals
  • Live near coasts and lakes where there is a large amount of fish
  • Can live up to 28 years
  • Both female and male bald eagles have a blackish-brown body, white head, neck and tail, yellow feet, legs and beak and pale yellow eyes
  • Bald eagles weigh anywhere from 6.5 pounds to 14 pounds
  • Their body is usually 34 inches to 45 inches long. This is similar to that of a 6 foot man!

The population of eagles inhabiting the Rivers & Routes region in winter is one of the largest bald eagle populations in North America. Read on to learn how you can see eagles in the Rivers & Routes Region

Eagle Meet & Greet

Have you ever wanted to see a live eagle up close and personal? Well, now you can!

The Great Rivers and Routes Tourism Bureau will be partnering with the World Bird Sanctuary again this year for the wildly popular "Eagle Meet and Greet" events. Throughout January in Alton and Grafton, visitors can meet a live American Bald Eagle. On Saturday, Jan. 7 the eagle will be at Flock Food Truck Park and on Saturday, Jan. 21 the eagle will be at the Alton Visitor Center. Learn about America's national bird, ask questions and take photos. Plus, on Jan. 7 enjoy the annual Eagle Ice Festival celebrating the amazing raptors and the birds of winter in the region.

On Saturday, Jan. 14 and Jan. 28, journey to the Grafton Visitor Center to see a live bald eagle up close and personal.

These events are held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at each location. Learn more about this beautiful bird of prey from a professional handler. Demonstrations are free.

To request a free Visitor's Guide for the Rivers & Routes region, please click here.

A woman holding a bald eagle at Eagle Fest in the Rivers & Routes region
Want to Meet an Eagle?

Before dawn breaks on the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway, the eagles begin to soar over the Mississippi River. From late December through mid-February, every day is eagle day.

Eagle Watching

Gather your gloves, parkas, hats, boots and binoculars and spend time outside along the rivers and bluffs of the region in what becomes a bird watchers paradise each winter. Look for eagles in the trees and bluffs lining the Mississippi and Illinois rivers or on the open river waters.

Three Ways to See Eagles in the Rivers & Routes region

1. Driving along the byway from Alton to Grafton to Pere Marquette, visitors can experience several great viewing spots and see anywhere between 25 and 150 eagles on their journeys. You can also marvel at the beauty of trumpeter swans that make the Audubon Center at Riverlands their winter home. For more information on this and other scenic drives, click here.

2. Take a brisk winter hike on the historic Route 66 Chain of Rocks Bridge to discover new ways to eagle watch.

3. Take a self-guided eagle watching tour with the new Great Rivers & Routes Eagle Watchers Mobile Pass, visit 5 out of the 10 eagle watching hot spots and enter to win a two night/three day stay in southwest Illinois this summer! The pass is available to download to your phone starting Jan. 1, 2023.

2023 Eagle Watcher's Pass

Download your Eagle Watcher's Pass here for insider tips on the best spots for eagle watching! Download Now

Eagle & Swan Sightings: Current Counts

Eagle Count

Eagle Counts as of Feb. 2, 2023

  • Audubon Center at Riverlands, West Alton: 6
  • National Great Rivers Museum/Melvin Price Locks & Dam: 6
  • Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge, Grafton: 12
  • Grafton Visitor Center: 10
  • Great River Road between Grafton and Alton: 18
  • Pere Marquette State Park: 35
  • Grafton to Pere Marquette State Park Visitor Center: 12
  • Brussels Ferry: 2

Trumpeter Swans

  • Audubon Center at Riverlands: 223
  • Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge: N/A

For more information on eagle watching, please call the Great Rivers & Routes Visitor Center at (618) 465-6676 Friday through Sunday. Don't forget to take a break and warm up at local restaurants. And be sure to spread out your bird watching fun with an overnight stay.

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Feb 11th, 2023

Enjoy a guided tour of some of the best eagle watching hot spots in and around the Grafton region. This two and a half-hour tour will highlight sites where wintering American Bald…
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Feb 11th, 2023

Enjoy a guided tour of some of the best eagle watching hot spots in and around the Alton area. This 45-minute tour will highlight sites where wintering American Bald eagles are typically…
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Feb 14th, 2023

Raptor Saturdays return this season at the Audubon Center at Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary with live raptor meet and greets presented by the TreeHouse Wildlife Center, guided wild trumpeter swan and eagle…
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Feb 18th, 2023

The National Great Rivers Museum warms up February 18, 2023, with the 2nd annual Ice Jam at the Dam! The winter-themed festival promotes outdoor recreation and celebrates all things icy along the…
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