River freezes brings in eagles

The official headcount will not be available until the end of the month, but a good look into the trees along the Mississippi River shoreline gives the distinct impression bald eagles are plentiful this year in the Quad-Cities.

The annual two-week national Midwinter Eagle Survey, which Iowa has taken part in since 1991, reveals dramatic ups-and-downs in bald eagle populations. For instance, between Clinton and Muscatine, the eagle tally in January 1993 was only 24. In 2004, however, the population spiked to 1,352.

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Some mass eagle sightings in the Quad-Cities suggest 2014 will produce high numbers. In one collection of trees near the Rock Island Arsenal and Lock & Dam 15 Saturday, eagle watchers were counting as many as 50 of the birds of prey.

Stephanie Shepherd, a wildlife diversity biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said the area’s cold, early winter probably drew the eagles to the Quad-Cities and other riverfronts.

“The Mississippi traditionally is a popular wintering area, and about 50 percent of the count (in the surveys) come from there,” she said Thursday. “They respond to the weather, looking for open water. If there’s a shortage of open water, they’re more concentrated.”

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Source: Quad City Times

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