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ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Since 1782 the majestic bald eagle has been the national bird of the United States. They were on the verge of extinction when the federal government declared them endangered in 1978.

Now, the species has made a remarkable comeback, and spotting them isn’t as rare as it was decades ago. The state of Missouri is sort of a magnet for the birds as they move south for the winter, looking for open water to fish.

There are more than 175 active eagle nests in Missouri. Typically there are more than 2,000 bald eagles spotted during the winter.

Spotting the birds often depends on the weather. Temperatures up north must be cold enough to push the eagles southward. But if a major cold spell freezes most lakes and wetlands, the birds will migrate south.

You can see the birds along the Mississippi River. They are often seen in trees along the banks and near the locks that control the flow of the water.

The Missouri Department of Conservation reports that you can see the eagles in the Kansas City and St. Joseph areas along the Missouri River. They often perch in tall trees looking for prey.

Here are some of the best places to find bald eagles in Missouri:

  • Old Chain of Rocks Bridge south of I-270, off of Riverview Drive, St. Louis
  • Audubon Center at Riverlands east of West Alton
  • Lake of the Ozarks at Bagnell Dam Access, east of Bagnell
  • Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area on Route K, southwest of Columbia
  • Lock & Dam 24 at Clarksville
  • Lock & Dam 25 east of Winfield
  • Mingo National Wildlife Refuge northwest of Puxico
  • Schell-Osage Conservation Area north of El Dorado Springs
  • Smithville Lake north of Kansas City
  • Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge south of Mound City
  • Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge south of Sumner
  • Table Rock Lake and Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery southwest of Branson
  • Truman Reservoir west of Warsaw