Eagle festival not just for birds

February 03, 2013 at 09:11 AM

Fact: Eagle nests are called aeries.

Fact: Baby eagles, called eaglets, are born light gray, then turn brown. When they are 4 to 5 years old, they develop their normal white heads and tails.

Fact: Nearly 200 people braved slippery winter roads Saturday to glean such information during multiple events at the Eagle Day Festival.

Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge had an auto tour and open house. Lewistown Visitors Center hosted live birds from Wildlife Prairie State Park. Dickson Mounds Museum had a film, displays, a live show, exhibits from co-sponsors like The Nature Conservancy and a room of eagle-related arts and crafts for kids.

“I don’t really like birds, but I like big birds. They fascinate me,” said 17-year-old Delaney Beaird of Lewistown.

She was helping her younger brothers make eagle hats and color eagle drawings at Dickson Mounds Museum. Three-year-old Teegan and 5-year-old Aidan had little to say. They were too busy pecking relatives with their paper eagle beaks.

“They came last year and they liked it,” explained the children’s grandmother, Dianna Beaird, also of Lewistown. “So we came this year, too.”

Dickson Mounds Director Michael Wiant had just left the Beairds at the coloring table so he could help World Bird Sanctuary of Missouri set up for the hourlong program featuring live birds of prey. Twenty minutes beforehand, the auditorium was filling rapidly.

“We’ve had a good day,” Wiant said. “This is an example of how the partnership works together. It makes it better for people to have so many events.”

According to Durinda Hulett, administrative officer of Illinois River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge Complex, cars had been lined up outside Chautauqua. Information packets ran out. The staff had to print more.

At the end of the day, refuge manager Bob Barry said, “We had 90 vehicles and 190 people come out to the refuge.”

Few birds could be observed on the ice at Emiquon Preserve, although nearby cornfields were full of feasting geese. Yet Barry said the ice did not totally freeze out eagle watchers at Chautauqua.

“We had people say they saw one or two eagles,” Barry said. “We had people say they saw 11.”

Terry Bibo can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).