Q Is this a good time to see bald eagles in the wild?

A You bet. Many of our eagles don't need to migrate very far. Because the main component of their diet is fish, all they have to do is move far enough south to find open water. For them, the Mississippi River just downstream from the Twin Cities is a restaurant that never closes.

You should be able to watch bald eagles hunting for fish and basking in the winter sun. Just travel downriver and check for eagles wherever the Mississippi River is open, usually around power plants or where other rivers join it.

One good spot is the pull-off at Reads Landing, about 67 miles southeast of the Twin Cities. Another good spot is the National Eagle Center in Wabasha. The center has fascinating displays, live eagle programs and a viewing platform. In winter, a couple dozen eagles typically can be seen from the center.

For more info about the center, go to www.nationaleagle center.net/.

Coming across crossbills

Q I'd really like to see some crossbills this winter. Any idea where I might find some?

A These handsome finches, named for the beaks that look like crossed fingers, are birds of the far north.

Sparrow-sized, the crossbill males are a bright red, the white-winged crossbill males are a deep pink with white on the wings. Their beaks are perfectly matched to the job of prying into pine cones to extract the seed.

Your best chance to see crossbills this winter would be in north central or northeastern Minnesota. Look for them in evergreens, hanging from pine cones and chattering to each other in a digital-sounding "beep."

If you'd like to see crossbills, as well as some other northern species, consider attending the SaxZim Bog Festival of Birds in Meadowlands, Minn., Feb. 12-14. Check it out at moumn.org/sax-zim. But do it soon. Registration closes Sunday.

Val Cunningham, a St. Paul nature writer, bird surveyor and field trip leader, can be reached at valwrites@comcast.net.