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 and TreeHouse Wildlife Center again this year for the "Eagle Meet and Greet." Every Saturday in January, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., visitors can meet a live eagle at the Alton Visitor's Center, located at 200 Piasa Street, and learn more about this beautiful bird of prey from a professional handler. Demonstrations are free.
While at the Visitor's Center, eagle enthusiasts can also pick up a free Eagle Watcher's Guide, area information, and restaurant and lodging options.
To request a free Visitor's Guide for the Rivers & Routes region, please click here.
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.
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.
Download a free guide to eagle-watching in Southwest Illinois here.
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 and earn a free Eagle Watchers T-Shirt to commemorate your visit. See more details below.
2021 Eagle Watcher's Pass
Download your Eagle Watcher's Pass here for insider tips on the best spots for eagle watching!
Eagle & Swan Sightings: Current Counts
(Updated weekly. Numbers as of Jan. 26, 2021)
- Audubon Center at Riverlands, West Alton: 5-6
- National Great Rivers Museum: 3-4
- Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge, Grafton: N/A
- Grafton Visitor Center: 2 eagles
- Great River Road between Grafton and Alton: 3-4 eagles
- Pere Marquette State Park: 3 at Gilbert Lake; 1 at Pere Marquette Harbor
- Grafton to Pere Marquette State Park Visitor Center: 3 eagles
- Brussels Ferry: 1 eagle
- Loading Dock, Grafton: 3 eagles
- Lewis & Clark State Historic Site, Hartford: 1 eagle
- Audubon Center at Riverlands: 24
- Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge: N/A
Fly Away with Eagles
Nature Connections: Masterpieces along the Byway