January is the absolute prime time to watch majestic eagles make their nests and feed their young and the best eagle-watching areas in the nation are right here in the tri-states, along the Mississippi River. An eagle’s nest was built last weekend at Kiwanis Park, during the Hannibal Parks & Recreation “All About Eagles” program.

The nest will be left there for a few weeks. It’s not a starter home. It’s on the ground as more of a show and tell. An actual eagle’s nest is typically 4-5 feet wide and 2-4 feet deep. The longer its perched in a tree the bigger it grows, as the eagles add to the nest every year.

Local conservationist Gloria Straube studies the area’s eagle population. She says there are four eagle nests in Marion County and 12 in Pike County. “They are all on private land and in close proximity to the river. Eagles nest in the tallest living trees that resemble a canopy with many branches.”

She said the opportunity to see eagles is great along Hannibal riverfront. “The best time to see the eagles is dusk and dawn, which is when they are out hunting for food. Sunrise to 10 a.m. is really best, in the afternoon they will likely be soaring up high. However, this time of year they are out all day long. “

Straube is a wildlife ethologist. I had to look it up. According to Master Class, ethology is the scientific study of animal behavior—including animal communication, predation, defense, aggression, mating, imprinting, fixed action patterns and releasers, and migration—most often in their natural conditions.

Missouri’s annual mid-winter eagle survey (which is conducted by the Missouri Department of Conservation each January) usually records more than 2,000 birds in the state. This count makes Missouri one of the leading states in wintering eagle populations.

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