On the Mississippi River between Illinois and Iowa, hundreds of bald eagles are now attracted each winter by plentiful fish in ice-free waters. (Video: Assignment Earth


Maybe you can go home again. Here where the Mississippi River divides Illinois and Iowa, the American bald eagle has returned, has come back to a place where just 40 years ago, not a single nesting pair of bald eagles could be found. Now, thanks to federal and state protection, bald eagles are back, using the same nest each spring. And what was once a rare sight, young birds, is now commonplace.

One of the biggest things that we’ve done in this area is to make people aware of the fact that the eagles are there, to help them appreciate them. You can look across the river behind me and see the number of birds that are sitting in the tree right here in the middle of two metropolitan areas. The recovery has been so successful in many places that there’s been a competition for the prime nesting areas.

Thanks to a series of locks and dams, the river here has areas free of ice; ideal for the bald eagles to fish the open waters even in mid-winter.

Oh he got something!

If the fish attract the eagles, then the eagles attract humans, who come in greater numbers every year.

I know birds and I love especially eagles. So that’s why I drove around 200 miles from my home.

A big boost to awareness comes through events like the annual Bald Eagle Days in Rock Island, where staff from the World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis offered up-close encounters with native birds.

Being here for World Bird Sanctuary and myself is all about fulfilling our mission, public education and awareness of the birds that we work with, rehabilitation of injured birds of prey, captive breeding and reintroduction of endangered species has also been an important part of the mission.

Though surprisingly adaptable to human environments, the bald eagle does not take to manmade perches like buildings or towers. A natural habitat is critical to this proud bird. And that means trees. Lots of tall trees. Bald Eagle Day started in 1987. It now draws 20,000 visitors a year, raising awareness, educating, but also celebrating a true mission accomplished.

As we watch the eagles, it reminds me that they are in partnership with us to keep the environment whole and to keep it balanced.

For Assignment Earth, this is Bruce Burkhart.

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"Assignment Earth" features compelling video reports from the front lines of major environmental stories from around the globe. Topics include global warming, pollution, habitat destruction and endangered species.