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Archive for Friday, April 6, 2001

Cold winter ensures annual return of eagles

April 6, 2001

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A colder winter this year shrunk the habitat but not the population of returning bald eagles, hundreds of which came back to Kansas when the north winds blew.

Mike Watkins, wildlife biologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said in a January interview that because this year's cold weather froze over many of the lakes, the eagles concentrated along the river.

Which meant that Lawrence bird watchers glimpsed dozens of bald eagles along the Kansas River near the Lawrence Riverfront Mall. Watkins said one Saturday morning he saw 53 of the birds perched on the treetops or swooping down for fish.

"They're very majestic birds," he said. "The fact that it's our national symbol is very spiritual for a lot of people."

The birds flocked to the trees along the Kansas River because the flowing water prevented ice from forming and allowed the eagles to find food.

"Even with the most severe weather, there are areas that stay open for them," said Ed Shaw, a retired KU professor. Shaw said the birds started arriving at the beginning of November and hung around until the waters broke up north of Lawrence.

About 1,200 bald eagles migrate to Kansas each winter. In 1989, the first eaglet was born at Clinton Lake, and since then 103 eaglets have been born throughout the state.

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