Friday 26th February 2021

Missouri’s Eagle Days events have become much-anticipated mid-winter routines for many families in the Show-Me State. This year, COVID-19 health concerns have changed Eagle Days to an online event, but that doesn’t diminish the ongoing efforts to celebrate our national bird and its comeback in Missouri and the U.S.

The Missouri Department of Conservation is partnering with Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield for several virtual Eagle Days events this year. As part of this year’s virtual events, Dickerson Park Zoo will provide participants with an up-close view of a live, rehabilitated eagle and peregrine falcon. Characteristics of these two birds will be discussed and there will also be live question-and-answer sessions at the end of the programs.

Here is the schedule and the registration addresses for each event.

This year’s online Eagle Days event is the latest example of the longstanding partnership between MDC and Dickerson Park Zoo that has not only helped raise awareness about bald eagles but also helped our national bird make a comeback in Missouri. One of the early steps in this comeback effort occurred in 1974, when the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) worked with Dickerson Park Zoo to establish a breeding program for bald eagles at the zoo. This made sense because, at the time, Dickerson Park Zoo was one of the largest eagle rehabilitators in the nation.

“Dickerson Park Zoo’s involvement in the rehabilitation of bald eagles started with former zoo curator Paul Price,” said Zoo Director Mike Crocker. “A falconer himself, Paul’s interest in birds of prey led the zoo to become more involved in the treatment and rehabilitation of sick and injured eagles and other raptors that were brought to the zoo. That eventually led to a cooperative effort between the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, the Missouri Department of Conservation, and the zoo to launch what became a successful 10-year effort to reestablish a breeding population of eagles in Missouri by rearing eagles at the zoo and then releasing them in the wild. And as they say, the rest is history.”

Prior to the project Crocker referenced, the history of bald eagles in Missouri had been a downward spiral. Historically, bald eagles had nested throughout Missouri, but there had been no known nestings in the state between 1965 and 1982. MDC, USFWS, and Dickerson Park Zoo coordinated efforts on a restoration project throughout the 1980s that involved obtaining 74 eaglets – some of which had been born at the zoo, but most had been obtained from wild nests in Alaska, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. These young birds were placed in artificial nests at USFWS’ Mingo National Wildlife Refuge and MDC’s Schell-Osage Conservation Area. The purpose of this was to, hopefully, re-establish successful bald eagle nesting in Missouri.

This effort, coupled with improved bald eagle management in other states, have resulted in a great wildlife comeback story in Missouri. Today, there are more than 500 active bald eagle nests in the Show-Me State. In winter, when the state’s resident bald eagles are joined by migrating birds from the northern parts of the continent, Missouri’s eagle population can swell to more than 2,000 birds.

Dickerson Park Zoo’s eagle care program has also produced three well-known eagles that have been used in programs around the state. For a variety of reasons, these were birds that could not survive in the wild, but could still serve as ambassadors for the species. Omega was the first of Dickerson Park Zoo’s program eagles followed by Phoenix, who is still being used at eagle events. The zoo also has Aquila, a golden eagle that it uses in programs. These birds allow people to get up-close-and-personal views of a live eagle and, through this experience, gain a greater appreciation for eagles.

“For a long time, Dickerson Park Zoo’s professional and dedicated staff and volunteers have served Missouri’s wildlife in a mission of rehabilitation and care while providing educational programs to countless Missourians and being a great partner to the Missouri Department of Conservation,” said MDC Scientist Janet Haslerig, who helps coordinate the agency’s bald eagle monitoring efforts in the state. “This invaluable partnership with Dickerson Park Zoo and other state and federal partners has led to a remarkable conservation success story for bald eagles in Missouri.”

People can learn more about bald eagles in Missouri and other eagle-related events across the state at mdc.mo.gov.