Do-It Yourself Eagle Watching
1. DO plan on arriving early. Bald
eagles are most active in the early morning hours. The best time for eagle
watching is from sunrise to 11 am when eagles feed along the area’s rivers. In
the afternoons they may be seen catching updrafts and soaring ("kettling")
overhead. They leave the river in late afternoon to congregate in night roosts
in sheltered timber areas nearby.
2. DO keep noises low and movements slow. Winter is a difficult time for eagles.
They need to conserve energy to keep warm and flying burns up energy. It is
important that they are not startled or frightened into flight. DO obey all
signs regarding Eagle Rest Areas.
3. DO call a Visitor’s Center to
find out if eagles have been spotted and where they are most active. For the
Alton, IL region cal
1-800-ALTON IL (1-800-258-6645). For the Quincy, IL region call 1-800-978-4748.
For the Keokuk, IA region call
4. DO check the weather. Eagles like
clear, cold mornings. Eagles will roost on rainy days and will be found soaring
on windy days. More eagles will be seen when the rivers are frozen than when the
water is clear.
5. DO dress accordingly. Wear layers so you can shed your outer clothing as the
day heats up. Bring a hat or earmuffs for your head and gloves or mittens for
your hands. Comfortable shoes are recommended.
6. DO bring binoculars or a spotting scope. If using a scope, a tripod
is useful. Eagles fly amazingly close to the Great River Road, but even a small
pair of binoculars can dramatically enhance your experience.
7. For photographs, if possible, keep the sun to your back or to
8. DO be patient. You are more likely to see eagles if you have time to spend.
9. DO observe
proper eagle watching etiquette. Many people use the area’s single lane roads
to get from here to there as promptly as possible. If you're admiring the view
at twenty miles per hour, pull over when someone's behind you. DO respect private property. Use public areas along the river and
be courteous to local land owners. DON'T park on
narrow highway shoulders. There are many parking areas along the area routes for
parking. DO remember to
buckle up. State law enforcement officers vigorously enforce the Click
It or Ticket program.
10. The bald eagle is protected by a number of state and federal laws, each
with stiff penalties. For example, the Eagle Protection Act, which protects bald
and golden eagles, combined with the Criminal Fines Improvement Act of 1987, can
cause violators to spend two years in jail or be fined up to $10,000 on a
misdemeanor charge. It is illegal to
pursue, harm, harass, take or attempt to take, possess, sell, purchase or
transport either eagles, eagle pans or their eggs without a permit. If you find
a feather, look at it, take a picture, but do not pick it up. If you know of
anyone committing such a violation, call Operation Game Thief at 1-800-522-8039,
or contact the state game warden in your county.