Thousands of bald eagles have gathered in their wintering haunts along the Mississippi and other rivers in the central United States.
About 3,100 eagles spend the winter in southern Illinois and 2,200 in Missouri, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Pere Marquette State Park, located on the Illinois side of the Mississippi about 30 miles north of St. Louis, is a major eagle sanctuary. Pam Warford, the park's assistant superintendent, said the park offers about 25 eagle-viewing tours in January and February. The tours, with a maximum of 60 people, are always booked up.
One big fan is H. Benton Woods, 81, who lives in near by Brighton, Ill., and likes to photograph the birds.
"They actually had to tell me I couldn't go on so many, so I cut back," Woods said.
The bald eagle came close to extinction in the continental United States because of hunting and thin-shelled eggs linked to the pesticide DDT. Since the 1970s, when DDT was banned, the birds have made a dramatic recovery, and biologists now believe at least 10,000 pairs nest in the lower 48 states.
Copyright 2008 by United Press International
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