PEORIA HEIGHTS, Ill. (WMBD) — The Land of Lincoln is also home to one of the nation’s most recognizable symbols: the bald eagle.

But how common is it to see them flying around Central Illinois? According to local wildlife experts, it is easier than we may realize to see the beautiful birds.

According to Colton Sanders, a Naturalist at the Forest Park Nature Center in Peoria Heights, the bald eagle population in Central Illinois is in the 500-range. Across the entire state, he said, there are about 10,000 bald eagles.

The bird-turned-national-symbol is still federally protected, despite being off the endangered species list.

“We’re soaring at about 300,000 bald eagles back in the United States,” Sanders said. “That puts them at about 71,000 nesting pairs, meaning those are occupied nests of breeding bald eagles. Back when they were put on the endangered species list, there were about 407 nesting pairs. So, big increase that we’ve seen.”

The birds were removed from the endangered species list after they hit about 9,000 nesting pairs, he said.

“Go down to the Illinois River, any major waterway, and spend some time down there. You can see bald eagles pretty much throughout the entire year,” Sanders said. “You’re more actively going to see them in the colder months, so January, February.”

Sanders recommended Detweiler Park in Peoria for any birdwatching, since the park is right off Route 29, on the riverfront. Forest Park Nature Center, he said, is also a great place to see them flying, if there’s a clear view of the sky.