Watch Bald Eagles Soar & Dive Along the Mississippi

Bald eagles (photo courtesy of Visit Quad Cities)

Each winter when the weather turns cold, the Quad Cities hosts a large number of bald eagles making their annual southern migration from Canada to the unfrozen waters of the Mississippi River.

The eagles are easily identified by the white feathers of their heads and tails and their immense wingspans. Bald eagles, a symbol of freedom and strength, and once on the brink of extinction, regularly awe visitors who line the banks of the Mississippi River on crisp, clear winter days.

Just down river from Locks and Dams 14 and 15, these magnificent birds gather along the tree-lined banks to spend the winter in the Quad Cities. The waters of the river remain unfrozen, fish are plentiful, and old-growth forests provide prime sites for perching and roosting. The bald eagles seen in the Quad Cities are growing in number. In 2007, the eagle was removed from the list of threatened and endangered species.

Eagles are amazing birds. They are not really bald but develop white feathers on their heads at five years of age. Immature Bald Eagles have dark heads. A mature eagle will have a wingspan of 6 to 8 feet, sports 7,000 feathers, and weighs 8 to 11 pounds. Their eyesight is seven times better than humans—meaning they could read a newspaper located a football field length away.

The Mississippi River Visitor Center on Arsenal Island, between Davenport, Iowa, and Rock Island, Illinois, is a great location for eagle viewing anytime. The Mississippi River Visitor Center is open Tuesday to Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please access Arsenal Island through the downtown Moline security gate. Adults are required to have a current U.S. picture ID for entry.

The Mississippi River Visitor Center offers eagle watches and historic Clock Tower tours on Saturday, January 28 and February 4 at 10:00-11:30 a.m. and 1:00-2:30 p.m. The tours are free, but reservations are required by calling (309) 794-5338.

There are also prime outdoor viewing locations in the QC where eagles are known to congregate in the trees near the river, so you can go eagle watching anytime on your own.

Lock & Dam 15, Schwiebert Riverfront Park, 17th St. & 1st Ave., Rock Island, Illinois
Lock & Dam 15, 101 W. 2nd St., Davenport, Iowa
Lock & Dam 14, 25549 182nd St., Pleasant Valley, Iowa
Sylvan Island, 101 1st Avenue, Moline, Illinois
Illiniwek Forest Preserve, 836 State Ave., Hampton, Illinois
Hampton Heritage Center, 251 S. State Ave., Hampton, Illinois
Credit Island Park, 2200 W River Dr., Davenport, Iowa

Please remember your eagle etiquette if you’re going bald eagle watching. Bald eagles are under pressure to use as little energy as possible in order to maintain body heat. Therefore, it is important that resting eagles are not frightened to the point of flying off and burning up badly needed energy. You can help the eagles survive by not approaching them and staying in your car as you watch.

For more information, see VisitQuadCities or call 800-747-7800.