Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Bald eagles return to Chicago area: A conservation success story

Bald eagle flying.
A bald eagle flies over the Twin Oaks Trail near the Hoff Road Trailhead on the USDA Forest Service Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Photo courtesy Tom Coyne.

ILLINOIS—On National Save The Eagles Day, Jan. 10, Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie volunteers, partners and staff members raised awareness about the increases in bald eagles in recent years in the Chicago area through a virtual panel. The bald eagle was removed from the list of Threatened and Endangered Species in 2007, and its return to the area after more than 100 years began nearly two decades ago.

In 2004, high up in a tree along the banks of the Little Calumet River in Chicago, the nest of a mated pair of bald eagles was spotted. It was the first bald eagle nest seen around the Chicago area in more than 100 years. Today, 35 bald eagle nests have been spotted in the six counties surrounding Chicago (Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will).

Bald eagles in nest.
A pair of bald eagles in their nest on the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Photo courtesy Bill Glass.

Two of those nests are located at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. A nest was first confirmed during annual grassland bird surveys in June 2014 and, since then, it has been home to several successful fledglings. In 2017, another active nest was confirmed.

“The increase in numbers of nesting bald eagles in the Chicago area is a local conservation success story that deserves to be celebrated,” said Forest Service Supervisory Natural Resources Manager Mike Redmer. “The increase in nesting bald eagles in our area provides inspiration and hope for the return of other species of native Illinois prairie plants here.”

At Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, volunteers, partners and staff are working with more than 275 species of native Illinois prairie plants to help increase and improve natural habitat for native Illinois grassland birds of all kinds, including bald eagles.

Participants on the informational panel included Jo Fessett, assistant to the executive director, Illinois Audubon Society; Richard Hickson, prairie volunteer; Veronica Hinke, Public Affairs officer and Public Services team leader, Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie; Mike Redmer, USDA Forest Service supervisory natural resources manager, Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie; and Mags Rheude, eagle biologist, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The recording of the 35-minute program is available on the prairie’s Facebook page.


Sustain Our Nation's Forests and Grasslands