CHICAGO — There's a good chance you could see a bald eagle in Chicago at the upcoming Earth Day Hike at Lake Calumet.
April 21's hike — the sixth annual at the lake — offers an unique opportunity to explore the area around Lake Calumet on the "secured" property of the Illinois International Port District, event organizer Tom Shepherd said.
Lake Calumet has been home to more than a dozen bald eagles in the past few months. The majestic birds have been hanging out in a secluded spot at the lake.
"There's no better feeling than watching a youngster catch a fish, or to see an eagle flying overhead," Shepherd said. "At one of our previous hikes, our birding group leader had just told kids that it looked like they might be shut out when an eagle flew directly overhead. As many as 14 eagles were spotted near Lake Calumet this past winter."
The bald eagle was once common in northeastern Illinois but was no longer a breeding species within the region by the early 1900s. The bird was once an endangered species but was upgraded to threatened and, in 2007, was taken off both lists. The bald eagle is still protected under the provisions of the 1940 Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which prohibits anyone from harming or disturbing the birds.
Illinois has become a hotbed for the bald eagle's wintering population; in 2014, the state trailed only Alaska's numbers, according to the Tribune. In the last few years, nesting pairs have been spotted in Lake County and a few miles outside the city in Palos Township. Bald eagles nest in the winter in warmer climates like Louisiana, but get closer to states like Illinois in the spring.
A bald eagle also was photographed last March near Rainbow Beach Dunes on the South Side along Lake Michigan. One was seen in fall 2015 after being electrocuted on a power line on the Southwest Side.
The area opened for April 21's hike, which includes 282 acres, is otherwise currently off limits.
Hikers will meet for coffee/rolls at 9:30 a.m. at the Harborside International Golf Course Clubhouse, 11001 S. Doty Ave. East, with an orientation at 10 a.m. and the hike beginning at 11 a.m.
For more information on the hike, click here.