Bald eagles are an iconic symbol of the United States.

To many in western Wisconsin it is also a symbol of the start of spring.

“Once that ice breaks up, eagles that have migrated farther south are now coming up to this area, so right now we’re experiencing a combination of local eagles that are going to stay here and nest here, and eagles that will continue on their way farther north,” said Wisconsin DNR Driftless Area Ecologist Armund Bartz.

Wildlife experts say that the La Crosse region is a perfect storm for bald eagles with plenty of food and a great habitat for the birds.

But it was not always like that, with the bald eagle almost going extinct a half century ago.

“In a lot of people’s lifetime, they have seen an increase from one nesting pair on the river to over 300 nesting pairs. So there has been an increase in the number of eagles that you can see and I think as the numbers continue to increase, it’s just a really big draw for people because it’s such a neat thing to see,” said Upper Mississippi River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge Visitor Services Manager Hallie Rasmussen.

Thanks to the ban of certain pesticides and regulations put in place, the number has been on the rise ever since.

Rasmussen says this time of the year many people are visiting the area to get a glimpse at what she calls a majestic bird.

The best places to see bald eagles are spots where the open water and ice meet.