Photos by Bill Graham, Missouri Department of Conservation

January 1, 2022

Western Missouri is fortunate to have large rivers and open wetlands that attract waterfowl and hold fish, because in winter that attracts migrating bald eagles looking for food. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) suggests that visiting a conservation area or waterfront park makes an interesting winter outing that may well provide eagle viewing.

Eagle viewing is a winter tradition in Missouri, and Eagle Days Jan. 8-9 at Smithville Lake will provide a good opportunity

Also, MDC staff will assist at the eagle viewing stations for the Smithville Lake Eagle Days Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 8-9. The event is hosted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Clay County Parks and Recreation Department, MDC, and their partners. Live captive raptor shows will be presented by Operation Wildlife. On Jan. 8, the live eagle shows will be 9:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 2:00 p.m. On Jan. 9, the live eagle shows will be at 11:00 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 2:00 p.m. The shows and other wildlife displays will be at the Paradise Pointe Golf Course complex at 18212 Golf Course Drive in Smithville. At Paradise Pointe, visitors can also learn where eagle viewing stations will be set up outdoors at the lake.

Eagles migrating from northern states travel through the area during winter. Their presence is dictated by weather and food availability. A long period of severe cold can cause them to move farther south. But the Kansas City region’s mixed winter weather often keeps eagles in the area during January and February. During freeze ups, they will be near open water such as at rivers or where large flocks of geese or ducks moving about on lakes have kept patches from freezing.

MDC has several conservation areas and fishing access sites in the Kansas City area. The Cooley Lake Conservation Area in Clay County has both a wetland and a Missouri River access. The fishing access at the town of Sugar Lake’s LaBenite Park is another place to check riverine habitat for raptors. Northwest Missouri also has several access areas or conservation areas along the Missouri River, including the Bob Brown Conservation Area in Holt County.

To find an MDC conservation area or river access near you, or a community partnership site with access, visit An online guide to Eagle Days events and viewing places throughout Missouri is at