Eagle watching at Starved Rock State Park

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 just right.

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 eagles.

“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 or to go on the Heller Nature Center bus, register at

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