BY DON GASAWAY |  Every winter, the waterfowl migrate to and through southern Illinois. Of special interest to many are the birds staying on the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge on the edge of Marion, IL in Williamson County.

Attention Sports/Outdoor Editors For additional information contact
For Immediate Release Shannon Johnson 1-800-GEESE-99

Every winter, the waterfowl migrate to and through southern Illinois. Of special interest to many are the birds staying on the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge on the edge of Marion, IL in Williamson County.

In addition to the waterfowl Bald Eagles follow to feed upon the birds. The refuge serves as a wintering, feeding and resting location. The 44,000-acre refuge provides a viewing location for those wanting to learn about the geese, ducks and eagles. Although they are fish eaters they will feed upon dead and injured waterfowl.

In the mid-60s the population of breeding pairs of Bald Eagles in the lower 48 United States was less than 500. Habitat destruction and the widespread use of DDT jeopardized their future. Placement on the endangered species list and the banning of DDT resulted in the population increase until today there are over 10,000. Today they are no longer endangered species, although they retain a protected status.

Some eagles make the refuge their year around home while other migrate with the waterfowl. A few nesting areas are visible from public roads but the best locations for eagle viewing seem to be in the areas closed to the public. Bald eagles refurbish their nests this time of year. They nests build to such weights that they sometimes cause the tree under them to eventually collapse. Most nests are about 5-feet across. By adding sticks each year the nests can become gigantic.

On December 20, 2015 the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (618-997-3344) at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge will begin taking reservations for their annual January Eagle Tours. Reservations are required. The guided tours will take place on January 24, 2016 and January 25, 2016 as well as February 1, 2016. The tours begin at 8:00 am and 2:– pm. During the tours refuge staff point out the eagles living there as well as those visiting for the winter. The cost is $5.00 for adults and $2.50 for youth under the age of 12.

The program known as Eagle Watch allows visitors to spend a half day with and experienced refuge volunteer in the restricted areas of the Refuge via Service vans. Seating is limited and reservations are required.

Periodically during the winter, Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge presents special educational programs with live animals. The programs are presented at the Visitor Center, 8588 Route 148, Marion, Illinois on the second Saturday of the month. Specific details are available from the refuge Visitors Center.

All though out the winter, and other times of the year, it is possible to observe wildlife on the refuge via a wildlife drive. For a map of the area and the drive contact the Visitor Center (618-997-3344.) Free information regarding motel accommodations and points of interest is available from Williamson County Tourism Bureau, 1602 Sioux Drive, Marion, Illinois 62959 or by calling 1-800-GEESE-99. They also have the free color Hunting Guide brochure available. Information is available online at www.VisitSI.com, the Williamson County Tourism Bureau website. Their e-mail address is info@VisitSI.com.

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