River freezes brings in eagles

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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.

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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