Bald Eagles in Stella, Missouri (February 2017)
On Friday February 3, 2017, my dad, friend Steve Booker and I loaded up the truck with lots of photography and videography equipment and headed northeast to our ultimate destination: Stella, Missouri. Stella, Missouri is a very small town located in southwest Missouri. When you pull into town, one of the first signs you see is “Stealla: Population 158”. Yeah… THAT small. If you drove every possible way for miles and miles, you’d hardly see any water. But what you would see a lot of is bald eagles. That doesn’t sound right, does it? Hardly any water, and a high volume of bald eagles? What’s going on here? I’ll tell you what’s going on.
Chicken farming is a HUGE business in southwest Missouri; particularly around the Stealla area, apparently. The best we can guess, there must be a huge chicken processing plant somewhere in the area and that is the reason for the high amount of chicken farming going on in this area.
Photo by: Steve Booker.
It’s pretty well known that many bald eagles from the north (Alaska, Canada, and the northern states in the United States) come down to the south during the winter due to their bodies of water freezing up, making fishing nearly impossible. Well… apparently over the years, many bald eagles have figured out that chicken tastes really good.
We went to Stella not knowing exactly for sure if the eagles were hunting live chickens or if they were eating chicken carcasses. We soon found out, from what we could tell, the chicken farms would dump carcasses and that’s where the eagles would gather up in trees and eventually swoop down and pick up part of a chicken carcass, take it up to the tree and dinner is served!
Above: Dylan catching some frames of bald eagles around Stella, Missouri. Photo by Steve Booker.
One thing we found amusing, speaking of their dining behavior, is that there might be 15 eagles in a tree and 30 chicken carcasses laying on the ground… one eagle would swoop down and pick a carcass up and then one ore more would go flying after the eagle with the carcass in his talons, fighting over the carcass… even though there were plenty for seconds for all of them laying right there on the ground.
Back to general information… there were a TON of eagles. In one morning driving around for about 3 to 4 hours, we had to have seen over 100 different eagles (the vast majority being mature eagles – white head, white tail). The problem wasn’t FINDING eagles. The problem was getting CLOSE to them. As far as strategy goes, you pretty much just drive the back roads near the Stealla area and just look closely in trees, watch for farmers who may be possibly dumping chicken carcasses, etc.
Above: Bald eagles in a tree near several chicken carcasses laying on the ground. Photo by Steve Booker.
Overall, it was a really cool experience and we had a lot of fun and laughs. If you ever plan to go to Stealla, just be as well equipped as possible. Zoom lens, video cameras with great zoom, etc. because it is nearly impossible to get real close to the eagles. They just simply do not cooperate.
Photos by: Steve Booker.
Being a videographer and having a passion for nostalgia, I took my video cameras along and documented both days of our adventure in vlog-style format. Both of those videos can be found below.