That's the highest average
for these first eight weeks of the count the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has
in its online records that date back to 2003.
Eagle experts explain we have this year's
extreme cold and a steadily growing eagle population to thank for all these
"The number of eagles
that are along the upper portion of the Mississippi this year with the locks
and dams has ranged anywhere from maybe just a few eagles all the way up - we
had numbers almost as high as 1,200," said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Natural Resource Specialist Samantha Heilig.
The Corps says much of
that has to do with the extremely cold weather we've been having. More bodies
of water are frozen - forcing the eagles to flock to places like locks and dams
where they can find fish in the unfrozen water below the dam.
Then when the river begins
to thaw, the birds spread out.
"They are territorial and
they don't like to hang out if they don't have to," said Heilig.
"One of the things
we're seeing a lot more of this year are juvenile eagles that are stopping by
the tree and spending a little bit of time in the nest," said John Riches,
Public Affairs Manager for Alcoa. "And so as long as liberty and justice aren't
around they feel free to stop in."
However, Riches said the
juvenile eagles typically don't stick around the nest for long as Liberty and Justice
often chase them away.
And while the patriotic
pair might not welcome all the extra visitors this year - Alcoa sees the
situation in a different light.
"It's clearly a good news story for the comeback
of the bald eagle," said Riches.
Bald Eagles were taken off the endangered
species list in 2007, but they are still federally protected.
Watchers say more eagles
spend the winter in Illinois than any other state, besides Alaska.
More than 3,000 eagles are said to be living
in Illinois right now.