ROCK ISLAND – Bird watchers say there are more bald eagles frequenting the locks and dams along the Mississippi River in Illinois and Iowa this winter than in previous years.
Samantha Heilig, a natural resources specialist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is responsible for counting eagles along a section of the river.
She told the Rock Island Argus she spotted 260 eagles at a single lock and dam between Rock Island and Davenport, Iowa, on Wednesday. There are typically 50 to 60.
"[That's] been the highest count I've had in years," she said. "To see 260 is exceptional."
Along a stretch of the river, spotters counted 5,000 of the raptors at about a dozen locks and dams. Experts say the birds are hunting for fish and are attracted to the open water in the area – particularly since other nearby waterways are frozen over.
Dick Sayles, head of the local Audubon Society branch, told the newspaper he managed to count 500 eagles on a trip from his home near Buffalo to the Quad Cities.
Many of the eagles in the area are juveniles.
Information from: The Rock Island Argus, http://www.qconline.com/index.shtml