You know the bald eagle is our country's national bird, but have
you ever actually seen one flying in the wild? Many people in this
area haven't, says Leah Holloway, a naturalist at Heller Nature
Center, because eagles don't search for fish in lakes. They cruise
Illinois rivers instead.
Because it's pretty rare in the Chicago area to see these
majestic birds in the wild, a trip to Starved Rock State Park this
month is worth the drive.
As the rivers north of the park freeze over, the bald eagles
trek south to Starved Rock in their search for food. A visit during
this time can mean seeing dozens of bald eagles, if the weather is
On Jan. 25, Heller will take a bus to Starved Rock for the
annual Eagle Extravaganza, or visitors can drive on their own to
see raptors swoop out of the trees to catch fish. The event starts
at the Starved Rock Visitor Center, where kids can learn about
raptors and take part in hands-on activities. Take a walk along the
river near the visitor center and you're sure to see the
"When they're there, they're pretty easy to spot," Holloway
says. "Some years they've had 40, other times five or six,
depending on the weather and what freezes up north. But in all my
trips here I've always seen an eagle."
The Waterway Visitors Center has spotting scopes to get a better
view of the eagles. Volunteers are available to help families and
there are activities inside the center, Holloway says.
The whole trip is both fun and educational, Holloway says.
"They're our national bird and it's a good idea for kids and
adults to have an understanding of our national emblem."
For more information, visit IllinoisRaptorCenter.org/eagle.html or
to go on the Heller Nature Center bus, register at registration.pdhp.org.
Liz DeCarlo is the former senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.
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