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Eagles soar in Stella MO

Hundreds of Bald Eagles can be seen in and around the small town

January 28, 2011|by Storm Team Meteorologist Dave Snider, KY3 News | dsnider@ky3.com

STELLA, Mo. -- What brings misery and mumbling to the Missouri masses in December, January and February brings delight to birders and those new to nature.

In winter, everyone and everything is looking for milder weather.  Bald eagles are looking for fishing opportunities and for food, and they stop here in Newton County, where they easily outnumber people.  Jeff Cantrell with the Missouri Department of Conservation says there could be easily 200 to 400 eagles in this small area.

Stella is a magical spot, an intersection of four watersheds of Indian and Shoal creeks, and Big Sugar and Elk rivers.  It's a place formerly known as The Village of Springs.  Now it's southwest Missouri's bald eagle winter respite.  It's a secret, perhaps, that Moses Eagle, a Cherokee Native American, knew when he named the town for his granddaughter, Stella Eagle, in the early 1900s.

"Branson is it for the summertime for the humans. I guess Stella is the area for the eagles in the winter time", Cantrell said.

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More come each winter -- signs of a recovery from the days before the 1970s in which the use of DDT kept eaglets from hatching.

"The easiest way to spot eagles is to just scan the trees and look for the white head," said Cantrell.

That larger, mottled bird might not be a vulture.

From the first year to four and half years of age, bald eagles change color until they reach their full regal state with white tails and heads at age 5.

Of course, like many humans, when bald eagles visit the Ozarks, some decide to stay.

"If eagles are still here in mid-March, we know they're here to nest or they're setting up territory.  And our nesting population's increasing every year.  It's a true success story," said Cantrell.

"They're so majestic and to see so many and to hear them call, they're just great. There were several up by the cemetery just soaring around," said Mike and Becky Wylie, a couple of eagle watchers who've been enjoying the eagles at Stella for more than a decade.

A good place to see the eagles here is Veterans Park (blue pin on map).

View Stella Eagle Days in a larger map

Missouri Department of Conservation's Eagle Days programs

Pictures from Stella's Festival of Eagles in 2010

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